Hay fever sufferers are being urged not to panic amid medication shortages as they are only affecting a “small number of lines”.
Piriton products are currently out of stock at Boots, Superdrug, and Lloyds pharmacies due to an “industry-wide shortage” of its active ingredient chlorphenamine maleate, which is also used to treat eczema and food allergy symptoms.
Boots says the supply issues are only affecting four of its 90 hay fever relief products and it hopes to have chlorphenamine maleate-based products back in stock by the end of May.
“There are a very small number of lines that are currently out of stock due to a current, industry-wide shortage of the active ingredient chlorphenamine maleate,” a spokesman said in a statement.
“However, we are expecting this to be resolved soon and new deliveries are expected in the coming weeks.”
The shortages come amid high pollen counts across the UK, with both tree and grass pollen currently in circulation.
A Met Office spokesperson commented: “Oak trees are currently major producers of pollen, and now there’s a bit of grass pollen in the mix, with recent dry weather and fairly light winds giving the opportunity for quite high levels to accumulate.”
Pollen levels will remain high, particularly in the South and East of the country in the next few days, they added.
Chlorphenamine maleate is one four antihistamines used to reduce hay fever and other allergy symptoms.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Professor Claire Anderson said Piriton is not the “first line choice” for treating adults with hay fever as it can make people feel drowsy.
She said that hay fever relief that uses cetirizine hydrochloride or loratadine are still in good supply, as well as and fexofenadine, which has now been approved for use and is available across the country.
She said: “Chlorphenamine maleate is just one component of a few hay fever tablets, including Piriton.
“Patients actually have more options than ever to treat their hay fever symptoms.”
Superdrug said it is only out of Piriton 30s and 60s and alternative antihistamines and Piriton syrup are still in stock.
It added that Allevia could be used for customers who regularly use Piriton.
Medicine shortages ‘nothing new’
The hay fever stock issues come amid ongoing shortages of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) across the UK.
The government has appointed a tsar, Madelaine McTernan, to tackle nationwide shortages of menopause remedies such as the rub-on treatment Oestrogel.
Four medical organisations have published a joint statement urging officials to act faster, claiming the shortages are causing thousands of women distress.
Prof Anderson added: “Medicines shortages are not a new problem, and is something pharmacists and pharmacy teams have to manage and deal with on a daily basis, and have done for a long time.
“This can be for a multitude of reasons, including manufacturing issues, global demand or disruption with the supply chain.
“Availability of certain medicines fluctuates, and it is important to ask your pharmacist for alternatives.”