Those living with diabetes in the UK have taken to social media to voice concerns about a shortage of the insulin medication NovoRapid.

Produced by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, NovoRapid is a fast-acting insulin that helps reduce high blood (glucose) levels in people with diabetes.

A current shortage of refill cartridges has left many people in the UK without vital medication.

Earlier this month, Novo Nordisk released a statement saying the NovoRapid shortage was due to an “unforeseen delay in delivery of the next order of this medicine.”

We would like to reassure people living with diabetes in the UK that alternative treatment options are available and options can be discussed with their healthcare professional,” the statement continued. “The shortage is not a consequence of any safety or quality related concern with NovoRapid®.”

The hormone insulin is used to regulate the body’s blood glucose levels, but those with diabetes can either no longer produce enough of the hormone, or what is produced is no longer as effective in the breaking down of glucose into energy.

Left untreated, the excess glucose can cause severe long-term complications, including heart disease, at least twelve types of cancer, diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy.

In the short term, high blood glucose can lead to hyperglycaemia, with symptoms including increased thirst, increased urination and increased hunger.

The shortage comes at a difficult time for people with diabetes in the UK, as the current hot weather makes it harder to manage the condition.

Users on Twitter have been quick to highlight the shortage of NovoRapid cartridges, with some wondering if the shortage is a consequence of Brexit:

“One of the most common types of #insulin in the UK is out of stock until 16 July. In over 40 years of #diabetes #T1D I have never experienced this. Is this a UK-only problem #Brexit or has something happened to @novonordisk?”

Another user said: “There’s currently a shortage of one type of insulin in the UK. Novorapid is in short supply for the reusable pens because of a delivery issue that is expected to be resolved within 2 weeks. Pre-filled pens & vials are unaffected so there are alternatives available but they need a different prescription.”

“Just been to collect my prescription from the pharmacy. As expected, no Novorapid cartridges. Suggested I contact my GP & ask them to prescribe pre-filled pens. Luckily I have enough for the next couple of weeks,” a user wrote.

Some were frustrated that the medicine shortage hasn’t garnered wider media attention, with one user tweeting: “Why is it not being more widely reported that there is a huge supply issue of Novorapid Penfill in the UK? My GP is sorting out pre-filled pens for me, but they didn’t even know there was a shortage until they phoned every pharmacy in the area.”

“Seems GP’s and some pharmacies are not aware of the complete lack of Novorapid insulin cartridges in the UK. My pharmacy just told me that they are out but they have pre-filled pens. But they could not give them to me as my prescription is for the cartridges. They said they would phone my GP to get the prescription changed. Some people are also reporting a shortage of the pre-filled pens. I literally have enough insulin now until after lunch tomorrow,” another person added.

While it appears many GP’s and pharmacies are suggesting a pre-filled alternative in the meantime, not everyone can use the pre-filled pens as they often come in a higher dose.

Taking too high a dose of insulin can lead to a hypo or hypoglycaemia, where the blood sugars fall too low.

Novo Nordisk’s statement says the company are talking to governing bodies to ensure the supply of medicine continues: “We are in discussions with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), patient organisations, pharmacies, and healthcare professionals to monitor our stock levels and to return to a stable level of supply that remains consistent with the needs of patients and the NHS as swiftly as possible.

Ensuring a continuous supply that meets the needs of patients and the NHS is of utmost importance for Novo Nordisk. Novo Nordisk is working to remedy the shortage and remains committed to ensuring people with diabetes receive the treatment they need,” the statement concluded.

Have you had issues with your NovoRapid prescription?

Join the conversation over on the Diabetes Community forum and let us know.


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