A leading Swindon pharmacist has spoken out at a shortage of drugs which, it has been claimed, is a result of some healthcare organisations who have been selling UK drugs to Europe, where they can get a better price.

As a result, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society says urgent action is needed. They claim that patients’ lives are being put at risk and UK pharmacies are facing increasing shortages of drugs used to treat cancer, high blood pressure and epilepsy.

Richard Thomas, proprietor of a small chain of five pharmacies which include Park Lane Pharmacy, Old Town Pharmacy and Toothill Pharmacy, which are part of the Hatch Ride Holdings, has become increasingly aware of the problems in sourcing some expensive drugs.

He said: “My pharmacists have been experiencing severe difficulties in obtaining certain drugs from the wholesalers. Naturally, we cannot keep each and every medicine in stock, so we rely on express ordering.

“But, now when we request some items we are told that the quantities that we can obtain are severely restricted, and in some cases, they have none in stock.

“We would like to assure our own customers that they will always come first. This practice is not only morally absolutely abhorrent, but it is also against the law.”

Hatch Ride Holdings owns a collection of local Swindon pharmacies including Old Town Pharmacy, Park Lane Pharmacy and Toothill Pharmacy.

These are all dedicated to offering the highest levels of healthcare to the community by providing excellent pharmaceutical advice, together with a full range of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and tested and respected complementary medicines.

The problem seems to be caused by the weak pound which makes it more profitable to sell medicines abroad.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain says drugs manufacturers and wholesalers are limiting the supplies they send individual pharmacies.

This means that when pharmacists exceed their quota, they are having to spend hours negotiating for extra supply, which sometimes takes weeks to arrive.

David Pruce, director of policy for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said: “We’re already seeing patients going without their medicines for days and potentially weeks. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes much more serious.”

The Department of Health has promised an emergency summit next month to look into the issue.

“It is a very few unscrupulous people that are putting profits before patients,” said the Health Minister, Mike O’Brien and ministers have promised an emergency summit into the issue.

“Rather than selling drugs to NHS patients as they should, they are selling them abroad for greater profit.”

The organisation which represents pharmaceutical companies has welcomed the meeting.