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C+D survey: Pharmacists want ‘unified approach’ to amending scripts when there are shortages

The majority of community pharmacists want a UK-wide approach where they can make minor amendments to prescriptions for medicines suffering from shortages without a protocol being in place, according to results from a C+D survey.

Pharmacists were first granted the ability to supply a specified alternative strength or form of a medicine suffering a shortage without contacting the patient’s GP in October 2019, when the government approved the legal framework for serious shortage protocols (SSPs).

Almost nine in 10 (88%) of 50 respondents to a C+D survey on SSPs said they agreed that a “unified approach” across the UK should be adopted, whereby community pharmacists can make minor amendments to a prescription for medicines that are in short supply, without a protocol.

One respondent commented: “Most of the time, when phoning a surgery for an alternative, they ask for your recommendation anyway.”


Another said that pharmacists are “capable of working out obvious ways to get round a shortage - give a different brand, give a different strength and modify the dose accordingly” and different respondent said this approach would “save time and [prevent] delay in patients’ treatment”.


However, another respondent disagreed, saying that this approach would “further complicate matters”. It is “Better [that] GPs’ and pharmacy records match, in my opinion, which they don't when the GP prescribes one item and the pharmacy dispense a different item”, they added.


One respondent warned that making changes at a local level, without the national oversight of the DH’s medicines supply team, could exacerbate medicine shortages. 


According to a C+D investigation, the most common medicine dispensed under SSPs in the 18 months preceding April 2021 was fluoxetine 20mg 30 capsules – the recommended alternative strength pharmacists were to supply when 30mg and 40mg capsules were in short supply.


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