News

Media And Political Bulletin – 03 April 2020

Media and Political Bulletin

03 April 2020

Media Summary

Coronavirus: European hospitals could run out of intensive care drugs ‘in days’

Sky News, Russell Hope, 02 April 2020

Sky News reports that the European University Hospital Alliance warned in a statement sent to national governments that hospitals across the continent could run out of stocks of muscle relaxants, sedatives and painkillers in less than two weeks. But at the hardest-hit hospitals, existing stocks might only last two days.

The group, which represents nine university hospitals in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Spain, said some governments were coping with the crisis by refusing to export to others. That could exacerbate current shortages, the alliance wrote.

It said: “No single country in Europe has the production facilities to provide all the drugs (or protective gear or ventilators) needed. Co-ordinated European action will be of vital importance.”

EU will avoid medicine shortage, industry chief says

Reuters, Matthias Blamont, 02 April 2020

Reuters reports that the European Union’s industry chief Thierry Breton said that countries will have access to the medicines they need to care for coronavirus sufferers, adding that pharmaceutical companies were doubling production to address shortages.

Hospital executives and doctors of nine European countries said in an open letter on Wednesday they only had up to two weeks’ worth of supplies of some medicines and urged greater European collaboration.

Many countries around the world rely on China, the source of the outbreak, for drug ingredients and now find themselves grappling with how to avoid shortages.

Asthma inhaler stocks low after COVID-19 linked demand spike, government says

The Pharmaceutical Journal, Carolyn Wickware and Julia Robinson, 02 April 2020

The Pharmaceutical Journal reveals that pharmacies are experiencing difficulties sourcing some commonly used asthma inhalers, following a surge in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the DHSC told The Pharmaceutical Journal that there were delays in replenishment of stocks to wholesalers, although suppliers were continuing to make stock available. The statement comes as some wholesalers reported that several inhalers are out of stock.

Pharmacists said that panicked patients were ordering inhalers they did not immediately need.

A spokesperson for the DHSC said it was “working with suppliers to ensure supplies continue to remain available.”

Inhalers and insulin dominate new export ban products

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Network News, 02 April 2020

P3 Pharmacy reports that asthma medications and insulin products make up the vast majority of the medicines newly added to the Department of Health And Social Care’s parallel export ban list.

On Tuesday 52 medicines were added to the list of products that cannot be exported because they are needed for UK patients, bringing the total number to 168 – a record high. Among the new medications on the list are 23 insulin products and 22 asthma medications.

There have been numerous reports of pharmacies struggling to source enough inhalers to meet patient demand since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Britain, in part because of some prescriptions being issued for a longer than normal period.

Codeine, doxycycline and diamorphine were some of the other medicines added to the ban list this week.

UK clinicians: revised PPE guidance must be backed by adequate supplies

The Guardian, Haroon Siddique, 02 April 2020

The Guardian reports that clinicians given the right to demand higher-specification personal protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus have warned that new guidance could count for little unless new supplies are made available.

The new guidance states that any clinician working in a hospital, primary care or community care setting within two metres of a suspected or confirmed coronavirus Covid-19 patient should wear an apron, gloves, surgical mask and eye protection “based on the risk”.

Employers and unions broadly welcomed the new guidance but warned that it must be backed by adequate supplies. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of council at the British Medical Association (BMA), said that “what fundamentally matters is that doctors and healthcare workers get the adequate and appropriate supplies of PPE on the frontline.”

“Without these supplies, there is continued unacceptable danger to the health and lives of healthcare workers and their patients.”

Doctors’ Association UK agreed that adequate supplies were key.

Online price of cough medicine soars by 11% since UK lockdown

The Guardian, Phillip Inman, 02 April 2020

The Guardian reports that the price of cough and cold medicines bought online has jumped by almost 11% after an increase in demand during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Office for National Statistics said the cost of over-the-counter cough and cold treatments had increased by 10.7% between 16 and 29 March. The online price for a basket of “high-demand products” increased by 1.1% during the same period, an annual rate of inflation of more than 53% it said. Paracetamol and antibacterial hand wipes were among the products that rose the most – 2.8% and 0.9% respectively – as well as pet food, rice, flour and nappies.

The ONS said the products, which also included toilet rolls, handwash and long-life milk, were chosen using anecdotal evidence of goods for which there was increased demand from consumers during the early stage of the pandemic.

 

 

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

Coronavirus: European hospitals could run out of intensive care drugs ‘in days’

Sky News, Russell Hope, 02 April 2020

European hospitals could run out of drugs being used to treat COVID-19 patients in intensive care within days, a hospitals body has warned.

The European University Hospital Alliance said in a statement sent to national governments that hospitals across the continent could run out of stocks of muscle relaxants, sedatives and painkillers in less than two weeks.

But at the hardest-hit hospitals, existing stocks might only last two days.

“The most urgent need now is for the drugs that are necessary for intensive care patients,” the alliance said, noting that shortages have led some hospitals to buy alternative drugs or try other doses on patients.

“It is extremely worrying that overworked and often less-experienced nurses and doctors-in-training, drafted to fill the gaps, have to use products and dosages that they are not used to.”

The group, which represents nine university hospitals in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Spain, said some governments were coping with the crisis by refusing to export to others.

That could exacerbate current shortages, the alliance wrote.

It said: “No single country in Europe has the production facilities to provide all the drugs (or protective gear or ventilators) needed. Co-ordinated European action will be of vital importance.”

Spain, the second-worst hit country in terms fatalities, passed a grim milestone on Thursday as it recorded its 10,000th death from the pandemic.

A new record 950 COVID-19 deaths were recorded on Thursday, although the growth in infections is waning, health ministry data showed.

Spain also lost nearly 900,000 jobs, although that figure is dwarfed by the US, where 6.6 million new unemployment claims were made last week.

In New York state, the number of deaths doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900.

In the city, bodies were loaded on to refrigerated mortuary trucks outside overwhelmed hospitals.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “How does it end? And people want answers. I want answers. The answer is nobody knows for sure.”

In Italy, where the total of 13,915 deaths is the highest globally, another 760 deaths were reported on Thursday as mortuaries overflowed with bodies and coffins piled up in churches.

Experts drew hope that the spread was already slowing in the country.

Sky’s Sally Lockwood, in Rome, said the lockdown there could start to be lifted “incrementally, by generations, soon” although she warned that schools “might not go back until September”.

In Italy, “they have upscaled their ICUs”, she said, while in Spain “14% of healthcare staff are infected”, a third of hospitals are at full capacity in ICUs.

Close to 940,000 people around the world have contracted the virus, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, and more than 47,000 people have died.

In other developments:

  • Italy has the world’s highest death toll of 13,155 from more than 110,000 confirmed cases
  • Spain announced record unemployment with 898,822 people out of work since the pandemic began
  • Russia recorded 771 new cases, a 43% increase on the day before
  • Belgium’s total number of deaths has passed 1,000
  • The Canada government is looking into reports drug imports were diverted to the US
  • Australia’s government will offer parents free child care from next week
  • New Zealand says it plans to repatriate tens of thousands of tourists, including Brits

EU will avoid medicine shortage, industry chief says

Reuters, Matthias Blamont, 02 April 2020

European Union countries will have access to the medicines they need to care for coronavirus sufferers, the bloc’s industry chief Thierry Breton said on Thursday, adding pharmaceutical companies were doubling production to address shortages.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed a huge strain on hospitals in Italy, Spain, France, and elsewhere in Europe as intensive care units fill up with tens of thousands of patients suffering the same illness.

Hospital executives and doctors of nine European countries said in an open letter on Wednesday they only had up to two weeks’ worth of supplies of some medicines and urged greater European collaboration.

Breton said the European Commission had anticipated the supply crunch.

“We foresaw there would be tensions over a number of medicines, notably those associated to intensive care treatment,” Breton told France Inter radio.

“Industry players have been summoned. Today, they are doubling production and I think we’re going to be able to address the situation,” he said, without elaborating.

Many countries around the world rely on China, the source of the outbreak, for drug ingredients and now find themselves grappling with how to avoid shortages.

France has said 40% of its drug ingredients are imported from China, where the coronavirus forced the closure of factories early in the year. They are only now beginning to reopen.

EU documents show that barely a month before Europe scrambled to find masks, ventilators and testing kits, national governments were telling Brussels their healthcare systems were ready and there was no need to order more stocks.

Officials with the European federation of pharmaceutical industries (EFPIA) were not immediately reachable for comment.

Doctors in France, which became the fourth country to pass the 4,000 coronavirus deaths threshold on Wednesday, have said levels of morphine and antibiotics, among other drugs, are running alarmingly low.

France’s drug safety regulator said earlier this month stocks of anaesthetic drug Propofol, manufactured by Germany’s Fresenius (FREG.DE), were running low and new supplies would not be available in France until mid-April. French doctors have also cited Pfizer’s (PFE.N) curare as another drug they need more of.

The head of the World Health Organization voiced deep concern on Wednesday about the rapid escalation and global spread of COVID-19 cases from the new coronavirus, which has now reached 205 countries and territories.

Asthma inhaler stocks low after COVID-19 linked demand spike, government says

The Pharmaceutical Journal, Carolyn Wickware and Julia Robinson, 02 April 2020

Exclusive: Shortages of Chiesi’s Clenil and Fostair inhalers, along with inhalers from other brands, have been noticed by pharmacists as patients begin to panic-buy inhalers they potentially do not need.

Pharmacies are experiencing difficulties sourcing some commonly used asthma inhalers, following a surge in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Pharmaceutical Journal can reveal.

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) told The Pharmaceutical Journal that there were delays in replenishment of stocks to wholesalers, although suppliers were continuing to make stock available.

The statement comes as some wholesalers reported that several inhalers are out of stock, including four strengths of Chiesi’s Clenil Modulite (beclometasone dipropionate) inhalers and three strengths of its Fostair (beclometasone dipropionate and formoterol fumarate dihydrate) inhaler product.

Some 9.3 million of these Clenil and Fostair inhalers were prescribed in 2018.

Pharmacists said there was a “loo-roll situation,” with panicked patients ordering inhalers they did not immediately need.

A spokesperson for the DHSC said manufacturers of inhalers are experiencing a significant increase in demand for their products “which is linked to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK”.

They added that it was “working with suppliers to ensure supplies continue to remain available” and that “healthcare professionals and patients are reminded to only prescribe and order what they need during this time, to ensure that all patients can continue to access their medicines.”

Chiesi confirmed in a statement on its website in March 2020 that it is experiencing a supply issue with its Clenil Modulite 100 microgram pressurised metered dose inhalers “as a result of a delay in component material supply”.

It added that “significant demand in the supply chain” for all Chiesi respiratory products has caused wholesalers to go out-of-stock on many lines.

The wholesaler AAH Pharmaceuticals placed 11 inhalers on its “out of stock” list on the 30 March 2020, with little guidance on when supplies would return.

Anna Murphy, consultant respiratory pharmacist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said the demand was caused by panic from some patients who have not used their inhalers in years, causing a “loo-roll situation” in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some companies “have very little leeway if patients are switched from one inhaler to another,” she said, although other companies “had huge stocks because of Brexit, so that has been helpful to them in managing the demand”.

Darush Attar-Zadeh, a respiratory lead pharmacist at NHS Barnet Clinical Commissioning Group, confirmed that he is also seeing shortages of salbutamol, from some companies, in addition to the Clenil inhaler shortages.

“My concern is that there may be even more overuse of reliever treatments in asthma that can make symptoms worse, and underuse of inhaled preventer treatment, exacerbated possibly by stock issues — there’s a lot of panic out there,” he said.

To mitigate shortages, the DHSC said NHS England wrote to healthcare professionals working in primary care on 31 March 2020, asking them not to overprescribe or over-order during this time, as this will create further pressures on the supply chain.

The British Thoracic Society also advised prescribers, in guidance published on 1 April 2020, that they “discuss with those patients who have not ordered a repeat prescription for an inhaler for more than four months if this is still clinically required”.

The advice also recommends prescribers “avoid switching between different types of inhalers unless essential to ensure continuity of patient treatment”.

“If an alternative inhaler is required … ensure patients are switched to alternative class of inhaler device (i.e aerosol (e.g [metered-dose inhalers], Easibreathe, Autohaler) or dry-powder inhalers),” it continued.

The Pharmaceutical Journal has approached AAH Pharmaceuticals for comment.

Inhalers and insulin dominate new export ban products

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Network News, 02 April 2020

Asthma medications and insulin products make up the vast majority of the medicines newly added to the Department of Health And Social Care’s parallel export ban list, which is designed to help the UK cope with shortages.

On Tuesday 52 medicines were added to the list of products that cannot be exported because they are needed for UK patients, bringing the total number to 168 – a record high.

Among the new medications on the list are 23 insulin products and 22 asthma medications, including a number of salbutamol and/or beclometasone preparations.

There have been numerous reports of pharmacies struggling to source enough inhalers to meet patient demand since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Britain, in part because of some prescriptions being issued for a longer than normal period.

A Covid-19 survey of 449 pharmacists carried out last weekend by Pharmacy Magazine and Independent Community Pharmacist found that Clenil was the medicine that was second-worst affected by shortages after paracetamol, with 60 per cent of respondents saying they had struggled to source it in the previous two weeks.

Meanwhile, 40 per cent said they had struggled to source other inhalers.

Codeine, doxycycline and diamorphine were some of the other medicines added to the ban list this week.

UK clinicians: revised PPE guidance must be backed by adequate supplies

The Guardian, Haroon Siddique, 02 April 2020

Clinicians given the right to demand higher-specification personal protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus have warned that new guidance could count for little unless new supplies are made available.

New guidance, issued by the UK government, public health authorities and NHS England after criticism of previous guidelines, states that any clinician working in a hospital, primary care or community care setting within two metres of a suspected or confirmed coronavirus Covid-19 patient should wear an apron, gloves, surgical mask and eye protection “based on the risk”.

It was updated after fears that the existing rules were confusing and some healthcare professionals were not being adequately protected from the risk of contracting the virus and passing it on to others.

Employers and unions broadly welcomed the new guidance, issued on Thursday, which doubles the distance at which PPE is required, but warned that it must be backed by adequate supplies.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of council at the British Medical Association (BMA), said the doctors’ union had heard concerns from physicians in more than 30 hospital trusts about shortages. “What fundamentally matters is that doctors and healthcare workers get the adequate and appropriate supplies of PPE on the frontline,” he said. “Without these supplies, there is continued unacceptable danger to the health and lives of healthcare workers and their patients.”

Doctors’ Association UK agreed that adequate supplies were key and said the requirement for long-sleeve protective gowns should have been extended in place of “flimsy plastic aprons”.

Reports have been rife of shortages and large variations in the level of PPE available. Pictures of healthcare workers who have created their own makeshift protective equipment out of bin bags and other materials have proved embarrassing for the government and NHS leaders. Staff have also improvised masks out of snorkels, bought kit from hardware stores, and used school science goggles to protect themselves.

Last week, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Prof Derek Alderson, urged members not to risk their health, following widespread reports of shortages. He said the new guidance was an improvement, but so long as shortages remained, “my warning still holds true”.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the guidance was straightforward for “staff to apply it to the clinical reality they face, whether they work in hospitals or the community. It means that if they think they need protective kit in a particular situation, they should be able to access it and wear it. But guidance is not the whole answer. Staff will need the right training and the right equipment, including for example ‘fit test’ kits to make sure the masks are effective.

“There have been real problems with distribution, we have been assured they are being addressed, and to be fair, in many places that is happening. But any remaining supply chain problems need to be dealt with without delay.”

Unite, which represents 100,000 NHS staff, said increasing supplies was “a national priority”.

The government said the new guidance “reflects the fact that coronavirus is now widespread in the community, meaning clinicians are more likely to see patients with the virus, some of whom may have minimal or no symptoms” and has the support of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The previous guidance recommended PPE outside high-risk procedures when healthcare workers were within one metre of a patients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19. The new guidelines makes them consistent with the two-metre social distancing rule.

Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said: “NHS England and the government are working hard to secure the supply lines in this challenging period so staff have the appropriate equipment.”

Online price of cough medicine soars by 11% since UK lockdown

The Guardian, Phillip Inman, 02 April 2020

The price of cough and cold medicines bought online has jumped by almost 11% after an increase in demand during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Office for National Statistics said the cost of over-the-counter cough and cold treatments had increased by 10.7% between 16 and 29 March.

The online price for a basket of “high-demand products” increased by 1.1% during the same period, an annual rate of inflation of more than 53%, the ONS said.

Paracetamol and antibacterial hand wipes were among the products that rose the most – 2.8% and 0.9% respectively – as well as pet food, rice, flour and nappies.

The ONS said the products, which also included toilet rolls, handwash and long-life milk, were chosen using anecdotal evidence of goods for which there was increased demand from consumers during the early stage of the pandemic. “Prices were scraped from a number of UK retailers,” it said.

Some products that sold quickly as the UK lockdown began were recorded by the ONS as falling in price, including dried pasta and antibacterial surface wipes.

Retailers have come under fire from consumer groups for increasing the cost of goods in high demand, though chemists and local shops are understood to have blamed distributors for some price increases, while producers have claimed they faced an increase in the cost of raw materials.

The report also showed that the virus was having a dramatic impact on the British labour market. More than a quarter of businesses told the ONS they were laying off staff after a collapse in revenues.

The independent statistics agency said 27% of 3,642 businesses surveyed between 9 and 22 March reduced staff levels in the short term, while 45% of businesses reported “lower-than-expected” revenues during the two-week period in March, as the virus continued to hammer the UK economy.

The employment figures, which were predominantly recorded before the lockdown, also show the pandemic affected trade at more than half of firms importing or exporting goods.

The ONS said 57% of importers reported that the outbreak had an impact on trade, while 59% of exporters were facing a financial hit from the virus.

The survey was part of a new fortnightly release of data related to the pandemic. The ONS said: “These are experimental statistics and have been developed to provide early indicators of the impact of Covid-19 in a timely way.”

Media And Political Bulletin – 03 April 2020

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