Painkillers rocket in price as shops struggle with demand amid coronavirus

Paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin have all risen in price amid the coronavirus outbreak as manufacturers struggle to access ingredients from China.

Drugmakers have demanded price increases on the back of raw material shortages triggered by the killer bug – in a move that could impact consumers.

High street retailers and pharmacies have warned that the cost of sourcing paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin have all risen sharply in recent weeks, in some cases by as much as 30%, as drugs wholesalers sought to pass on higher costs.

Christian Jakobsson, managing director of online pharmacy Medino, said its supplier is now charging 85p for 32 capsules of 500mg paracetamol  – 21p more than in February. "We have seen similar price increases for ibuprofen," he added.

However beauty chain Boots has insisted its prices will not fluctuate despite the crisis.

"Customers can be reassured that the cost of their regular brands, including Boots own brand paracetamol, has not and will not go up. The same is true for our antibacterial products," a statement explained.

Last week India, the world's largest supplier of painkillers, limited the export of certain medicines, including paracetamol. The country sources many of its ingredients from China, where exporting has been largely frozen due to coronavirus.

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Some suppliers have also placed limits on the volume of pain relief products they will provide to retailers and pharmacies, to ensure stock is distributed evenly around the country. In turn, many retailers are limiting the number of boxes of pain relief and children’s medication shoppers can purchase.

Boots said it had seen an increase in sales of hand sanitisers and cold, flu and pain relief medication.

On Tuesday it imposed a limit of two items per customer on cough and cold medication, pain relief, children’s medicines, thermometers and tissues, in addition to baby sterilising and antibacterial products, hand sanitiser and handwash.

"Given current demand, we are exploring new avenues of supply and alternative brands," said a Boots spokeswoman. "We will endeavour to price appropriately, to reflect costs within our control."

Phoenix, the owner of the Rowlands pharmacy chain, said it had seen a considerable increase in demand for medicines such as paracetamol and Calpol. It said it had put order restrictions in place on some products to “ensure equitable supply across the UK".

Phoenix confirmed that prices for some medicines had increased, but said: "This is beyond the control of medicine distributors like Phoenix."

McKesson, the pharmaceuticals supplierthat owns the Lloyds pharmacy chain, said it had processes in place with suppliers and manufacturers "designed to help minimise the impact of shortages and ensure we are able to provide a consistent supply of critical products".

A spokesperson said: "We are experiencing an unprecedented demand for over-the-counter pain relief and are doing everything we can to ensure we provide a consistent supply of medicines. This includes sourcing from multiple providers and putting commitments in place with manufacturers to secure supply."

In the past week, several supermarkets have imposed restrictions on popular items such as soap and pasta in a bid to help prevent panic-buying .

Tesco has introduced a five-item limit on a number of items including pasta, anti-bacterial wipes, gels and sprays, and long-life milk until further notice.

Waitrose has also put restrictions on certain anti-bacterial soaps and wipes online.

A spokeswoman told Mirror Money: "In-store, we are currently not putting a cap on any products. We have introduced a temporary cap on certain products on including some antibacterial soaps and wipes, to ensure our customers have access to the products they need. We continue to work with suppliers to help meet demand."

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