COVID-19 causing a national shortage of inhalers

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, there are a number of people who the government and NHS have identified as being more ‘at risk’ to the illness caused by the virus. Included in this group are those who suffer with a long term health condition, one of which is asthma.

How does the coronavirus affect people with asthma?

Asthma is a condition which affects more than 5 million people in the UK. The symptoms are commonly triggered by allergies but can also be brought on by exercise, smoke, pollution, certain medicines, stress, and other triggers. The coronavirus is a respiratory infection which can make the airways narrower, therefore making it harder for people with asthma to catch a full breath.

Managing asthma normally involves using one or more inhalers. Some inhalers help to relieve the symptoms when you are already breathless, and some are used to prevent the symptoms of asthma from returning. 

Why is there a shortage?

With inhalers being essential for people with asthma as both a preventative measure and for immediate relief, there has been a large increase in demand across the UK since the coronavirus outbreak. It’s possible that some patients who were not using their inhalers properly have now started using them more often, and as prescribed.

This extra demand has caused temporary shortages of some inhalers across the country, in particular inhalers called Clenil Modulite, and Fostair; as well as a few others. The manufacturers of these have assured us that they are still making them in the same quantities as before, but it is likely to take them some time to catch up to this increase in demand from pharmacies.

The NHS has asked for patients to not order their inhalers or other medicines, earlier than needed; and doctors have been asked not to issue prescriptions early or for more medicines than normal during the pandemic, to help make sure there are enough medicines to go around.

What are Pharmacy2U doing?

Respiratory health is more important than ever during an outbreak of a respiratory infection like COVID-19. We are working tirelessly to ensure we supply our patients with all of their medicines and we are in regular contact with our suppliers, including the inhaler manufacturers to obtain stock as quickly as we can.

If we have a prescription containing an inhaler that is unavailable, we can send any other items on the prescription to you straight away, with the inhaler to follow as soon as the stock is available. If you have not already been sent an email giving you instructions on how to do this, just contact us at and we’ll do it for you.

What patients should do

If you have already ordered your inhaler and are waiting for it to be delivered, please do not order your inhaler again as this will potentially duplicate your prescription, meaning there are less inhalers to go around during this shortage and we’d like to ensure as many patients as possible get their essential medication.

If you are in urgent need for the inhaler, let us know and we may be able to return the prescription back to the NHS database for another pharmacy to dispense – but bear in mind that they may not have stock either, so make sure you check with them first.

In some cases, you will need to ask your GP to prescribe a different inhaler. Sometimes there are other brands of inhalers that contain exactly the same ingredient; other times you might need to switch to a different but similar inhaler that works in the same way. Your GP has guidelines to assist them with inhaler choices, and we can help them – or you – with this if needed.

Where can I find more information about asthma?

Your local health professional can help, and there are many high quality online resources – we would recommend the following links.

NHS website:

Asthma UK:

How to contact Pharmacy2U?

There is lots of information available online, which should be able to answer most of your queries, including our dedicated coronavirus hub, frequently asked questions or NHS services.

There are several ways to contact us if you’re still unable to find what you’re looking for but due to the increased demand in our service, our response times are currently longer than usual. We are sorry for any delays but kindly ask that you are considerate of our teams during this stressful time and assure you that they are doing all that they can to help you. If you can please have your account details ready before you contact us, this will speed up things up a bit, helping us to  deal with as many patients as possible.

Phil Day By Phil Day Superintendent Pharmacist Published 06/04/2020