Pharmacists warn of major shortages of cold and flu medicines across the UK

Pharmacists have warned that cold and flu medicines are running low (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images)
Pharmacists have warned that cold and flu medicines are running low (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images)

A two-year hiatus of respiratory viruses due to Covid restrictions, a subsequent loss of immunity, and an increase in those mixing indoors during the Christmas season have contributed to a rapid rise in cold and flu across the UK.

As such, demand for over-the-counter remedies has also seen a sharp increase but pharmacists have warned of a severe shortage of these medicines.

Drugs including Lemsip, Night Nurse, and other popular cold and flu remedies are becoming worryingly low in stock.

The significant lack of cold and flu remedies in the UK is being further exacerbated by a huge demand for over-the-counter medicines, as many people are unable to see their GP.

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Lack of cold and flu medicines in the UK

Cases of cold and flu have steadily increased over the past few months, with serious cases seeing a total of 3,746 people a day being hospitalised with flu during the peak Christmas season, according to figures recently published.

Over-the-counter medicines are also being used by those infected with Covid and, with a lack of GP appointments, many are taking matters into their own hands owing to the medicine shortage.

Speaking with MailOnline, the head of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, described the situation as a “nightmare at the moment” which is also “widespread”.

“Pharmacists can’t get hold of some of the most common cold and flu medicines and are sending me pictures of how empty shelves are,” she explained.

“People cannot get GP appointments and are told to look after themselves not to put pressure on the NHS.

“With cases of cold and flu being higher this season, this has led to many people buying over-the-counter medicines and has led to higher demand.”

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Worldwide issue

One user took to social media to air her grievances and said: “Genuine question. Is there a Lemsip shortage? Been to over eight different shops since before Christmas and the shelves are totally bare.”

The situation is not only a UK issue, as the USA also struggled with cold and flu medicine shortages for children before Christmas, with CVS and Walgreens both having empty shelves.

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Alongside the UK and the US, China, France, Canada, and Germany have also suffered with a severe lack of over-the counter medicines.

Supply chain demands have also been blamed for the crisis, alongside a rise in do-it-yourself treatment due to a lack of GP appointments since the start of Covid.

Dr Hannbeck said the issues were being caused by “problems and delays with manufacturers” but are also down to a lack of plan in place for tackling these supply chain concerns.