High Street Chemists suffer a hay-fever pill shortage

Topics covered: drug shortages, NHS, NHS England

High Street chemists in the UK are running out of some hay-fever medicine, as a UK industry-wide shortage has hit supplies. At the end of April, the Government also appointed a hormone-replacement therapy (“HRT”) tsar to tackle drug shortages affecting products used by women with menopause symptoms. This drug shortage is now also affecting stocks of chlorphenamine maleate, which is a key ingredient in popular brands such as Piriton used to treat hay-fever. This has come at a poor time, with pollen counts set to remain at a medium to high level across the UK in the coming week. Additionally, hay-fever affects almost 10 million people in England.

What is being advised?

It is being suggested that people should look to alternative ways to treat hay-fever and to reduce the dependence on pills. For example, shops sell nasal sprays and eye drops, both of which can relieve symptoms such as itchy eyes and a runny nose. The NHS has also suggested the following:

  • To place Vaseline around the nostrils which traps pollen
  • Wearing sunglasses which prevents pollen reaching the eyes
  • Staying indoors with windows and doors shut
  • Showering and changing clothes after going outside

Hay-fever is caused by allergic responses to allergens including pollen. When an allergic reaction is caused the body naturally produces a chemical called histamine. The drug shortages are affecting antihistamines drugs such as chlorphenamine which helps with hay-fever symptoms. In March to mid-May tree pollen is prevalent, whereas grass or weed pollen comes slightly later in the season.

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