One in three stores lacks painkillers: ONS

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Shops have been suffering from shortages of paracetamol and ibuprofen during the Omicron wave, new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed on Friday (14).

Paracetamol is the scarcest item on shop shelves, according to ONS, with low or no stock found at three in 10 stores as the new variant spread.

Meanwhile, a fifth of shops are experiencing shortages of ibuprofen, and supplies of toilet rolls and fresh fish are also low, ONS data up to 10 January found.

“People are having boosters, which probably means there’s going to be an increase in people taking this product, then you’ve got colds, flus and Covid,” he said,” supply chain expert at Cranfield University Professor Richard Wilding said. 

“Supply needs to actually catch up with that and work with that… the new normal for supply chains unfortunately is an awful lot of volatility and challenges with that. Products like this are therefore more likely to be disrupted.” 

The news comes as the ONS revealed around one in 15 people in England have tested positive for Covid-19 in the week ending 31 December 2021. 

Drug shortages have been reported as early as November when 15% of stores lacked paracetamol, as the first cases of Omicron were reported in the UK. The UK has relied on oversea imports for painkillers, as a third of generic medicines used by the NHS are made in India which has limited drug exports during the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Michelle Riddalls, head of consumer healthcare body Proprietary Association of Great Britain, said that shortages of over-the-counter medicine are likely to be “local, sporadic and filled within a relatively short time”.

The news comes as the UK reported 109,133 new coronavirus cases and 335 deaths on Thursday (13). Both infections and deaths are down in the last few days, with cases dropping by around 20,000.