An Isle of Wight woman says she is feeling the “painful” consequences of a struggle by the Island’s pharmacies to source the arthritis painkiller Naproxen.

Lou Scott-Attrill has osteoarthritis and has been using Naproxen for around three years, to relieve the pain in her knees and back. A shortage means she can no longer use it:

“The last two times I’ve tried to get my repeat prescription I’ve been told that they just can’t source it here or anywhere on the mainland.

“Also using one of the online pharmacy dispensers they are unable to get Naproxen.”

A number of independent Island pharmacies say their suppliers are short of the medicine and as a result they are having to “go further afield” themselves.

Isle of Wight Radio has been told a shortage of particular brands is nothing new and pharmacies have been juggling with the issues for decades. It is starting to affect more common brand names, however.

Samantha Butler

Samantha Butler from Regent Pharmacy in East Cowes and Shanklin says her team does their best to source the exact medicines or an alternative. They work with GPs and other pharmacies to supply patients:

“We’re getting different brands of medication. Some patients are finding that quite difficult. We’re having to source from different wholesalers. There will be slight changes in packaging. What you have to remember is that the main ingredient is exactly the same. Some people like a particular brand. That’s quite difficult at the moment.”

Naproxen has tripled in price recently, while the cost of an NHS prescription remains the same at £8.80 for those who have to pay at all.

While smaller pharmacies can negotiate and find alternative supplies, that is not so easy for the bigger chains.

Switching to an alternative is not always straight-forward. For Lou, there has been a knock-on effect on her health:

“Obviously my medication has been changed. I have not been told, it’s just been changed.

“It’s a medication that I don’t usually use and i’m not comfortable with and it’s just not as good as Naproxen is.

“It’s more painful than normal. Obviously just general running around day to day you definitely notice a difference after 48 hours.”

Meanwhile, the government has raised post-Brexit fears by asking UK manufacturers to ensure they have a minimum of six weeks ‘additional’ supply in the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario.

In response, the Isle of Wight NHS trust is advising pharmacies, hospitals, care homes and GPs not to ‘stockpile’ medicine and says it has ‘no plans to increase stock’.

In a ‘contingency’ report, the trust also says there is ‘no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions’.

It goes on to say that staff should ‘promote messages of continuity and reassurance to people who use health and care services’ and ‘the public should be discouraged from stockpiling’.