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Wholesaling chief calls for DH to publish simplified Category M data

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) should communicate Category M prices to pharmacists in a way that is more easily digestible, Sigma Pharmaceuticals co-founder Bharat Shah has told C+D.

While the DH publishing the Category M prices in a transparent way, “someone’s got to spend time in finding the data”, Mr Shah added. The data should be presented in a more “simple” way, such as on a newsletter, he suggested.

The DH announces how it intends to adjust the Category M prices in advance for every quarter. In its most recent announcement, it said that the medicine margin for Category M would be “adjusted downwards by £49.3 million per quarter, circa £16.4 million per month”, for the January-March quarter.


Read more: DH moves onto next stage of community pharmacy drug reimbursement reform


But the data published by the DH does not suggest whether the price of an individual medicine has gone up or down by making a quarter-on-quarter comparison, nor how many new products have been added to the price list, Mr Shah pointed out.

“Tell us what is added and what is taken away because that’s more important to a pharmacist rather than a big 600-line spreadsheet”, which must currently be used to work out these changes, Mr Shah argued.


“Department should be more dynamic”


The volatility of drug prices means that the way prices are currently set for Category M drugs is “not fair” and “the department should be more dynamic”, Mr Shah added.


Read more: What is behind February's large number of price concessions?


Prices for Category M drugs are based on quarterly information shared by manufacturers with the DH, which means the price contractors currently pay for generics does not always reflect the most recent cost of that medicine, Mr Shah explained.

“We’ve now noticed during the shortage period that the prices are shooting up four times, five times and the drug tariff is still remaining the same,” he added.


Invest into services


Speaking at the Avicenna conference in London earlier this month (March 6), Mr Shah presented some data collated for Sigma by IQVIA – an analytics and clinical research company – which shows that independents are on the right track to increase their number of prescriptions.

However, it would be better for contractors to focus on their business rather than investing a lot of time in sourcing stock, Mr Shah told C+D.

“They should really be investing in remuneration services, where they can actually get something which can’t be taken back. More so to say that let us portray ourselves as a professional not a glorified businessman, a glorified retailer,” he added.

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