Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking (1) to remedy any buprenorphine shortage, and (2) to ensure that in the long term there is consistent and adequate supply of this medication, that it is available across the country and is not subject to unpredictable price fluctuations.

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

We are aware that there was a short-term supply issue which may have affected the availability in May 2018. This was because one of the main suppliers experienced delays in delivery, resulting in a short term out of stock period. Although supplies continued to remain available from other suppliers, we are aware that some may have struggled to support the increase in demand at short notice. The delivery issues were resolved quickly and the overall supply of buprenorphine tablets improved shortly afterwards.

Since this period, the Department has remained in regular contact with all United Kingdom licensed suppliers of buprenorphine and has been working closely with them to monitor their supply position. Based on these conversations, we have been assured that the available supplies are sufficient to meet the usual UK requirements for this drug. The Department continues to monitor this very closely to ensure that there is consistent and adequate supply of this medication across the country.

The Department is aware that since this short-term supply issue, the market price has increased. This increased purchase price is reflected in the reimbursement price paid to pharmacies, to ensure that supplies remain available to patients. The market for buprenorphine has generally been competitive and we expect the supply situation to improve over the coming weeks which is likely to result in an increasingly competitive market.

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