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DH prioritising 'important' OTC medicines in no-deal Brexit planning

The government will prioritise over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that are “important” for managing specific health conditions in its no-deal Brexit contingency plans.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) is working with NHS England to identify which of the 500 OTC medicines with an “EU touchpoint” are “important for the management of specific health conditions”, health minister Stephen Hammond said in a written statement yesterday (February 25).

The government is working with OTC medicines suppliers to ensure contingency plans are made for these products, Mr Hammond said, in an update on the DH’s plans for ensuring the continuity of medicines supply in the event of a no-deal Brexit next month.

C+D has asked the DH which health conditions and OTC products it is prioritising.

POMs and P medicines

The DH has also analysed 12,300 licensed medicines, and determined that 1,800 are “not relevant”, as they are no longer marketed in the UK, Mr Hammond said.

He reiterated the DH’s request for manufacturers to hold an additional six weeks’ worth of stock for the remaining 7,000 pharmacy (P) and prescription-only medicines (POMs) with an “EU or EEA touchpoint”, as part of its “multi-layered approach to minimise disruption”.

Last month, contractors told C+D they faced shortages of a growing range of medicines, including naproxen, furosemide, candesartan and irbesartan, which are costing pharmacies' precious time and money.

When asked what contingency plans the DH has put in place for these specific medicines, it said it is “unable to discuss specific companies and medicines, or supply routes”.

“To reassure participating companies, we have committed to treating all information received confidentially and securely, and to using it only for the purposes of the DH’s programme,” it told C+D.

“No evidence” shortages are due to Brexit

Mr Hammond said his department has “well established, routine procedures to deal with medicine shortages, from whatever cause”. “There is no hard evidence to suggest current [medicines shortage] issues are increasing as a result of EU exit,” he added.

“Local stockpiling is unnecessary and could cause shortages in other areas, which could put patient care at risk,” he stressed.

Mr Hammond added: “We are confident that, if everyone…does what they need to do, the supply of medicines and medical products should be uninterrupted in the event of exiting the EU without a deal.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock wrote to all frontline healthcare providers – including community pharmacies – in August 2018, to advise them not to stockpile any medicines ahead of Brexit, and that “there is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions”.

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