Last updated 21/04/2020
Over the past few weeks we have received reports from a number of people with lupus who have been unable to fulfil their prescription of azathioprine, a fairly common immunosuppressant medication.
Is there a shortage of azathioprine?
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has increased the risk of shortage of several medicines. The NHS imports a significant proportion of its drug supply from abroad. In addition, many drug manufacturers rely on supply of essential ingredients from China, where manufacturing is cheap. Whilst we don’t currently know the exact cause of the disruption to the supply of azathioprine, the pandemic seems likely to be an important factor.
On Friday 3rd April 2020, LUPUS UK contacted a number of pharmaceutical companies supplying azathioprine to find out more. Strides Pharma UK Ltd and Tillomed Laboratories Ltd reassured us that stocks are in the process of being replenished and should be available in the UK in mid-April.
Despite these reassurances we have received some further reports from people with lupus who are still struggling to get their prescription fulfilled. LUPUS UK will be seeking an update from suppliers and will post any information on this page.
What should I do if I cannot fulfil my prescription?
If you have been told by your pharmacy that they do not currently have any azathioprine available, you could try asking other local pharmacies in your area (it is probably best phoning them rather than making the journey).
If you have an electronic prescription you can request a change to your nominated pharmacy to have it dispensed by one with the tablets in stock. If you decide to do this, please be aware that it will also affect any other regular prescription items.
If you wish to collect your medication from a different pharmacy as a ‘one-off” you will need to contact your medical team and request that your prescription is re-issued as a physical form which will allow you to collect your items from a different pharmacy. If you are shielding and do not have a friend or family member who can assist you with collecting your prescription/medication, please contact your local council for information about voluntary services in your area who can help.
If you have previously been unable to fulfil your prescription at your pharmacy, if you have sufficient supplies, it will be worth contacting them again to see whether they are now able to order it for you.
If you are concerned that you will run out of your supply of tablets, you should contact your rheumatology team for advice.
If you continue to experience difficulty obtaining azathioprine, please Contact Us.
We will share more information as the situation develops.