6th January 2019

Epilepsy medications will be exempt from shortages prescribing protocol after Alliance and members intervene

The Sunday Times has reported today that epilepsy medications will be exempt from the shortages prescribing protocol which would be used in the event of national medicines shortages. The Department for Health and Social Care issued this exemption from its shortages prescribing protocol following a campaign by The Neurological Alliance and its members, led by SUDEP Action.

Letter to The Times

In December, The Neurological Alliance wrote to the Department of Health and Social Care outlining our serious concerns about the proposals in relation to the potential impact on neurological patients. Following this, Alliance member SUPEP Action led the development of a letter to The Times warning of the risk of epilepsy deaths as a result of the proposals. The Neurological Alliance welcomes the news that, when approached by The Times about our letter, The Department for Health and Social Care clarified that people with epilepsy would be exempt from the proposals. We applaud SUDEP Action for leading such an effective campaign on this important issue.

The need to exempt other neurological conditions

The Neurological Alliance now urges the Department of Health to go further and exempt other neurological conditions from the shortages prescribing protocol.  As we outlined in our letter to the Department in December, not getting the right medication on time can have a hugely detrimental impact on the health of people with other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or MS. At worst an individual may be left unable to move, eat or swallow, experience distressing psychological symptoms and uncontrolled movements.


Jane Hanna OBE, Chief Executive of SUDEP Action, who led the coalition said:

“Whilst we welcome hearing from The Sunday Times that the planned protocol will not include epilepsy, it begs the question about other neurological conditions and what alternative contingency there is for conditions, like epilepsy, that will be excluded. We urgently need a statement from Government on what assurances ministers can give at this time about continuity of supply of essential medicines.”

About the shortages prescribing protocol

The shortages prescribing protocol, developed by The Department of Health and Social Care, would be used in the event of national medicines shortages.  It proposes to give pharmacists the power to dispense alternative drugs if those prescribed by GPs are in short supply, for example in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


You can read a full copy of the letter to The Times on SUDEP Action’s website.