The lack of first-choice drugs can cause problems ranging from longer recovery times to negative side effects / Getty Images

The lack of first-choice drugs can cause problems ranging from longer recovery times to negative side effects

Medicines shortages are putting patient safety at risk and piling “almost daily” pressures on family doctors to find second-choice alternatives to commonly-prescribed drugs, GPs have warned.

A poll for GP magazine found that the vast majority of family doctors had been forced to prescribe a second-choice drug and eight in 10 GPs said that the problem had become worse in the past 12 months.

One in three GPs told the magazine that patients had been “negatively affected” because they did not get the first choice drug for their condition, with problems ranging from longer recovery times to negative side effects. 635 GPs were consulted for the survey.

Recent high profile cases have included shortages of the blood pressure drug valsartan, and the shingles vaccine Zostavax, but GPs said that restrictions to pharmacists’ access to certain drugs from wholesalers and manufacturers had been a problem for the past five years.

MPs investigating the problem in 2012 said that shortages were mainly caused by the export of branded medicines intended for the UK to other EU countries.

GP leaders have called for the NHS to establish an alert system to warn GPs about local shortages and for the Government to address supply-chain problems.

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