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Wholesaler body proposes shortages information scheme to rebuild trust

Collating information on medicine shortages from manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies would rebuild trust across the supply chain, the wholesaler body has said.

Community pharmacies in particular would benefit from a tailored service that shows which medicines are experiencing supply disruptions, why, and when they are going to be available, Martin Sawer, head of the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) said last week (February 18).

The service would probably need a “third party of mutual engagement” such as the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), to oversee the sharing of supply data between pharmacies, wholesalers and manufacturers, Mr Sawer told C+D after his presentation at the Sigma conference in Muscat, Oman.

“An information service [for] the supply chain – up to manufacturers and back down, particularly to community pharmacies – would be quite an achievement,” Mr Sawer said.

Rebuilding trust

He admitted that sharing some data “is a challenge” because of commercial sensitivities, and any information shared “has to be handled properly”.

However, exchanging information would help those in the supply chain understand each other better, and would improve trust between pharmacies, wholesalers and manufacturers, Mr Sawer said.

“In some specific incidences, an accusation that's been levelled [is that] wholesalers don't always communicate why a product isn't there and when it's going to be there next. Sometimes we don't actually know, that's the trouble,” he told C+D.

“We need to tell a pharmacy that we don't know – it's just exchanging basic information. If that happened, there would be better trust established.”

“Getting hold of medicines is a huge challenge”

Mr Sawer would like to start developing the service later this year, he said. “I've mentioned it to a few pharmacy leaders and they've been supportive.

“The information supply is one thing – once that's sorted, we need to move to how we sort out [shortages of] individual medicines,” he continued.

“Getting hold of medicines is a huge challenge, but if the information exchange allows an understanding of the level of demand and concern, then maybe medicines can be moved around if they're in the wrong place, and supply can be added to more quickly.

“It will be on a case-by-case basis, medicine-by-medicine, because there's different reasons for shortages,” Mr Sawer explained.

Watch Mr Sawer explain the proposals in more detail.

Do you agree that there needs to be greater transparency across the supply chain?

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