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PSNC ‘deeply concerned’ as pharmacies contend with record price concessions

The government granted a whopping 198 price concessions for medicines last month, surpassing record highs reached earlier in the year, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PNSC) has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) granted a swathe of medicine price concessions throughout December last year, reaching a total of 198 by December 30.

This surpassed “the previous record of 159 granted in September 2022”, PSNC said on Friday.

The negotiator typically liaises with the DH to agree on concessionary prices for drugs reported to be unavailable at Drug Tariff prices each month.

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

PNSC said it had made “a record number of concessions requests” to the DH in December 2022, on top of continued warnings “that this situation is simply not sustainable or acceptable”.

The DH “needs to investigate why there is consistently such a high number of products unavailable at or below Drug Tariff price,” PSNC added.

It also stressed that “pharmacies simply should not be forced to keep funding the gap between the reimbursement and purchase prices for these medicines”.

“PSNC remains deeply concerned about the impact that high medicine price rises are having on contractors,” it said.


Price concessions review “well underway”


In September last year, PSNC revealed that the DH had committed to reviewing the price concessions system, which it said was “no longer working” for pharmacy contractors.

This review of the price concessions system “is well underway and our meetings with the DH have been constructive”, PSNC said last week.

Read more: 'We cannot subsidise NHS medicines bill': PSNC ramps up pressure on government

However, given the record number of price concessions granted, the negotiator said it was “pressing officials to expediate this work as a matter of urgency”.

“A fairer and more timely price concessions system” will “protect” pharmacies from “devastating” medicine price rises, PSNC added.


Price hikes “far beyond antibiotics crisis”


Throughout December, “hundreds of community pharmacy contractors” contacted PSNC with concerns over inflated prices for antibiotics used for the treatment of strep A and “the lack of certainty around the final reimbursement prices for these medicines”, the negotiator said.

“The number of reports we are getting from contractors about medicines price rises are just not acceptable and this goes far beyond the antibiotic crisis,” PSNC added.

Read more: Strep A: Watchdog investigating ‘excessive’ antibiotics prices

It comes after the Competition and Markets Authority announced last month it was “working to establish” whether companies charged “excessive prices” or colluded over antibiotics used to treat strep A in the UK.

The Healthcare Distribution Association’s executive director Martin Sawer told C+D last month that the prices wholesalers charge pharmacies for antibiotics “directly reflect the increase in prices” they are having to pay manufacturers.

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