Coronavirus crisis: Britain set to run out of paracetamol by summer, warns expert

Dr Sam Roscoe has spent the past six years studying the global pharmaceutical supply chain and said the UK is not in uncharted waters. The senior lecturer in operations management at the University of Sussex Business School said the “buffer” that suppliers rely on to continue the flow of medicines after an increase in demand will soon run dry. This will have drastic consequences for families across Britain if someone falls ill and shops and pharmacies are no longer selling the tablets.

Dr Roscoe said judging by the current climate, the UK is poised to see stocks dwindle to nothing within two to three months.

He told “The pharmaceutical supply chain will have a buffer inventory to last two to three months depending on the products.

“Not only has there been a big spike in demand, there’s also been a massive decrease in supply.

“India is shutting down. Even if the factories remain open, people cannot get to work because public transport has been stopped.


“So they are suffering from a labour shortage.”

He warned the sluggish supply which may eventually dry up completely would have a “big impact on families” across the country.

Earlier this month India limited its exports of paracetamol as it feared a spike in demand among its own population.

The south Asian nation has now gone into lockdown, one of the strictest across the globe.

Factories are closing in virus-controlling measures and police are strongly enforcing bans on public movement.

These measures spell disaster for the UK’s surging demand for paracetamol, Dr Roscoe said.

He added: “People are being very reactive to what they hear in the media and panic buying begets more panic buying.

“Anything to treat a fever is being sold out.

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“So the danger there for anybody who does come down with a fever even if it’s not coronavirus you don’t have the proper medication for it. How then do you treat it?

“Last week we went out to buy medication for my two-year-old and there was nothing left.

“The issue with paracetamol is that it is a generic product and I think that is why it’s been snapped up.

“Just to compound the issue further, India and China may decide they need these medications themselves.”

Demand for paracetamol increased among shoppers after reports surfaced suggesting ibuprofen may harm a COVID-19 patient’s ability to fight the virus.

In a typical flu season pharmaceutical supply chains are able to forecast it what drugs are needed and in what quantities.

But the coronavirus epidemic sweeping across the world puts pharmaceutical bosses in an unprecedented position because they have never before dealt with COVID-19.

In early March Indian authorities ordered the country’s vast pharmaceutical industry to halt exports of 26 drugs and drug ingredients.

The issue with COVID-19 is it’s never happened before and it has affected the global supply and demand. The problem is seen as more intense because it has spread quickly.

I think the panic buying situation for medication will stabilise when people say we have enough paracetamol.

But even if you stabilise it depends on how many people are sick in the UK. That is going to put pressure on the system so regardless of panic buying statistics it will mean a surge in demand.

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