Pharmacy bosses warn of Calpol shortage amid high level of winter bugs

Pharmacy bosses warn of Calpol shortage with stores struggling to get hold of ‘very basic’ cough and cold remedies amid ‘high level’ of winter bugs – as ebay sellers cash in by flogging Lemsip for up to £12 a packet

  • Pharmacists have warned of Calpol shortages amid a ‘high level’ of winter bugs
  • EBay sellers are flogging Lemsip for £12 a packet amid low stocks of medicines
  • Pharmacists have been photographing near-empty shelves across the country
  • Lemsip maker said it was ‘seeing significantly increased demand’ for the product
  • Surge driven by ‘people turning to remedies amid shortage of GP appointments’

Pharmacy bosses have warned of Calpol shortage with stores struggling to get hold of ‘very basic’ cough and cold remedies amid a ‘high level’ of winter bugs, as ebay sellers cash in by flogging Lemsip for up to £12 a packet. 

The children’s medicine is in short supply along with other popular cold and flu remedies as demand soars for over-the-counter treatments.

Medicine advertised on ebay has leapt in price, with one seller advertising 24 Lemsip Max Cold and Flu Capsules for £11.99.

Others are selling the brand’s Day And Night Capsules for £10.99 – and limiting sales to one pack – with Lemsip’s 180ml cough liquid listed for £11.49.

As cases of cold and flu continue to rise, those who are unable to see their GPs are turning to shop-bought treatments which has seen a spike in demand, according to an expert.

One seller is advertising 24 Lemsip Max Cold and Flu Capsules for £11.99 on EBay

Cold and flu medicine appeared in short supply at a Morrisons in the market town of St Ives, Cambridgeshire

And with Strep A continuing to cause concern among parents of young children, Calpol has become ‘virtually non existent’ in some areas, The Sun reported.

Somerset pharmacist Mike Hewitson told the news site that he had ‘never seen the situation this bad’. 

One wholesaler has listed 87 per cent of Calpol formulations unavailable.

The ‘higher demand’ at the moment has also seen medicines like Lemsip, Day and Night Nurse, as well as throat lozenges, cough mixtures and some pain killers selling out, with pharmacists taking pictures of depleted shelves.

This is leaving pharmacists struggling to find alternative remedies for patients. 

The head of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), Dr Leyla Hannbeck told MailOnline the problem was ‘widespread’ and not isolated to just one product.

Pharmacy leaders have said that a ‘lack of planning’ from Government officials is to blame for a shortage of cough and cold medicines.

Describing the situation as a ‘nightmare at the moment’, Dr Hannbeck said: ‘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.

‘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.

Lemsip’s 180ml cough liquid has been listed for £11.49 on EBay as sellers cash in on the shortage of cold and flu medicine

Another seller is selling 10 sachets of Lemsip Max for £10.99, meaning that each dose costs more than £1

Another seller, who has listed day and night capsules for £10.99 is limiting the buyers to one packet each

A shopper places a bottle of Covonia Chesty Cough Mixture in their basket at Tesco in Bristol as low supplies of cold and flu medicine continue to hit the country

Lemsip Max Day and Night Capsules are sold out in a Tesco Superstore in Bristol on Wednesday

‘The Department for Health (DHSC) and Government are in denial that shortages exist. As long as this is the case we’re going to be seeing this going forward.

‘During the winter period, when so many people are suffering from cold and flu symptoms, as soon as a little bit of demand goes up we’re stuck.’

She continued: ‘It’s not just one brand, it’s a range of products that are unavailable. 

‘But we are keen not to create panic. What we are saying is some of these basic medicines that we should have at this time are unavailable.’

The UK Health Security Agency has warned that winter illnesses including flu and Covid-19 continue to circulate at ‘high levels’.

As a result, officials urged people to keep children with a fever off school and urged unwell adults to wear face masks to stem the spread of infections.

The association said that the latest shortages – which come off the back of supply issues with antibiotics and HRT last year – could cause additional pressures on the NHS.

Dr Hannbeck said: ‘Pharmacists are struggling to obtain the very basic, most common cold and flu medicine.

‘This isn’t just the branded medicines, it is also simple things like throat lozenges, cough mixtures or pain killers – particularly the ones that are soluble.

Tesco in Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire, also had low stocks on some cold and flu medicines 

Pharmacists have reported low stocks of some over-the-counter cold and flu medicines

People have been taking picture of depleted shelves as cold and flu medicine stocks run low

Scramble for cold and flu drugs: Pharmacists say they face shortages of Lemsip, Night Nurse and other medicines amid huge demand as people who can’t see their GP turn to over the counter remedies instead 

Cold and flu medicine appeared in short supply at a Morrisons in the market town of St Ives, Cambridgeshire

‘The demand has been high because this season we’ve seen higher cases of colds and flu and people are obviously trying very hard to look after themselves and making sure that they use the relevant products to manage the symptoms.

‘And that has led to a shortage of these products in terms of us not being able to obtain them.’

Ms Hannbeck added: ‘But this is part of a bigger issue – from HRT to antibiotics to this, we are constantly finding ourselves in a situation when as soon as the demand for something goes up we are struggling with the supply.

‘Unfortunately part of that is a lack of planning by officials (at the Department of Health and Social Care) in terms of foreseeing the problems and trying to plan in advance to sort it.

‘For example, with cold and flu, we knew some months ago cases were going up and it was anticipated that there would be higher demand for these products.

‘So you would have thought that plans would have been in place in terms of managing this with regards to liaising with manufacturers and getting the products in.’

Not being able to access self-care products in pharmacies is leading to more pressure for the NHS, she added.

‘What we are seeing, which is concerning, when people go to pharmacies and try and get hold of the products over the counter, particularly for small children, then people start to stress and panic and what we don’t want to happen is for more people to go to their GP or A&E when the NHS is already under a lot of strain,’ Ms Hannbeck added.

‘It comes back to a broader issue of our supply chain not functioning properly.

‘And every time there is demand for something – like with Strep A (which saw a spike in demand for antibiotics) cases were going up in October, and then in early December the Government said there were no supply issues – when clearly there were supply issues – and then they had to issue a serious shortage protocol which demonstrates that there actually is a supply issue.

‘So it becomes trouble shooting rather than having robust plans to sort problems out.’

She added: ‘If you’re in denial that there are supply issues, if you don’t want to admit there is a problem, how can you find solutions?

‘On the front line it is very difficult because we’re seeing these shortages but those people who are in charge of supporting us with it are denying it.’

But she added: ‘We don’t want people to panic – as pharmacists we do everything we can to ensure we support patients in every way possible and try and sort alternatives, or give advice on how to manage cold and flu symptoms.’

MailOnline visited some Boots stores in London yesterday and found that Lemsip Max sachets are entirely sold out, with just boxes ‘day and night’ tablets left. 

One Boots store worker said: ‘We don’t have any Lemsip powder or our own brand cold and flu sachets at all. Only Beechams.

‘We’ve not had any for two to three weeks. I believe there are supply problems.’ 

Lemsip manufacturer Reckitt said it was ‘doing all we can to minimise the disruption’ as demand for the product was high during the cold and flu season.

A Boots spokesperson said: ‘We have seen higher than usual demand for Lemsip.

‘There is still availability in many of our stores, and although there may be temporary shortages in some, there will normally be suitable alternatives available.

‘If in doubt, customers should speak to their pharmacist for advice on alternatives.’

Meanwhile Superdrug said it was currently experiencing ‘exceptionally high demand’ both for their branded and own-brand cold and flu products.

Niamh McMillan Superdrug pharmacy superintendent, added that demand for their own-brand remedies had exceeded the demand seen during ‘its biggest week in the Covid-19 pandemic’.

Meanwhile, scores of social media users have reportedly struggled to find any cold and flu remedies this winter. 

One woman said: ‘Genuine question. Is there a Lemsip shortage? Been to over 8 different shops since before Christmas and the shelves are totally bare.’

Retailers seeing empty shelves as stock of cold and flu remedies run low during the winter season

Packets of painkillers and cough medicine were out of stock at Morrisons in Cambridgeshire this morning 

Another reported a shortage at the Waitrose store in Worthing, West Sussex, while a third – who spent the Christmas break battling a virus – added: ‘I have been floored with a nasty bug since Christmas Day.

‘Started feeling better yesterday and thankfully just cold like symptoms now. There’s so much of it about. Apparently there’s been a shortage of Lemsip and paracetamol round here because of it!’

While one man made light of the shortage, tweeting: ‘Why is no one discussing the shortage of Lemsip! How am I going to deal with this manflu!?’   

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said yesterday: ‘We are having ongoing discussions with suppliers to help ensure there is a wide variety of over-the-counter cold and flu medicines available to buy across the country. Should any supply issues arise, we have well-established procedures to deal with these.

 ‘We work closely with industry, the NHS and others to prevent shortages and resolve any issues as soon as possible.’

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