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64% of contractors unprepared for FMD, while no-deal doubts confirmed

Several contractors said the price of FMD equipment was prohibitive

Two thirds of contractors were unprepared for the EU’s scanning law at the end of 2018, while the MHRA has since confirmed a no-deal Brexit would kill the directive.

Of the 53 contractors who responded to the C+D Salary Survey 2018 in October – 88% of whom were based in England – 64% said they were unprepared for the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), which will require all pharmacies to scan barcodes on medicines packaging at the point of dispensing from February 9.

In addition, 77% of contractors said they had not yet bought the scanners required to comply with the FMD.

Over half (52%) of 42 respondents to a separate question said they had spent less than £100 per pharmacy on preparations, while 21% had spent between £100 and £500, and 17% had invested more than £1,000.

Several respondents said the price of the equipment was prohibitive. Describing it as “so expensive”, one contractor said they were “trying to see if any colleagues get better deals so I can negotiate the same”.

Uncertainty surrounding Brexit was cited by two contractors as a factor in their unwillingness to invest in preparations. One respondent said they were “waiting for more guidance and Brexit information”, while another said they were “still deciding”.

MHRA: No-deal Brexit will void FMD

In its response to a consultation on the implementation of the FMD, published last week (December 24), the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed that in the case of a no-deal Brexit, UK “stakeholders” – including pharmacies – will not be able to participate in the system after the country is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29.

Following a no-deal Brexit, the UK “would not have access to the [EU’s] central data hub”, resulting in pharmacies being “unable to upload, verify and decommission the unique identifier on packs of medicines”, the MHRA said.

The medicines watchdog also said that under certain circumstances it will allow some healthcare institutions to be exempt from FMD compliance.

However, the MHRA told C+D that “there is no flexibility...for a community pharmacy to be exempt from the requirement to decommission”.

In October, government officials suggested pharmacies should prepare for the FMD regardless of a no-deal Brexit, as any UK-focused scheme would be based on a similar system.

The C+D Salary Survey 2018 – which ran throughout October – was completed by a total of 1,916 pharmacists and pharmacy staff. C+D's coverage from the survey can be found here

Is your pharmacy prepared for the FMD?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I've been saying this for months. If you start going into the nitty-gritty of it, you find how little preparation the nation is as a whole for Brexit. Oh, it is laughable at how unprofessional this is making us all look.

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

As far as I know this FMD will be a legal requirement from 9th Feb and compliance will be expected from day one. So why are so many pharmacies not ready for it? I know many don't like it and there are many reasons for it. I have to admit I don't like it either but if it is the law then there isn't a choice right? Apparently you can be prosecuted and your pharmacy got shut down if you don't comply? 

You are correct, but we won't be seeing any FMD compliant packs in community anytime soon. It will take a long time for registered packs to reach the dispensing shelves.

A lot of contractors are probably waiting to see what system works the best or whether we get a no deal brexit before investing in new software and hardware. 

There will be loads of pharmacies not doing any scanning initially (even ones with the equipment) as there will be no fmd compliant packs to scan.

Neeraj Salwan, Superintendent Pharmacist

Also many contractors have bulk bought many generics without the 2D QR code and tamper proof seal due to price hikes and Wholesalers constantly phoning saying prices are going through the roof so to stock up. But apparently you can get sent to jail for not participating in FMD!!!!!!

Oliver Staunton, Information Technology

The cost of FMD systems can definitely be prohibitive - for our FMD system, PharmScanner, we've tried to be completely transparent with regards to pricing, with a flat £20 per month cost and from £70 for a 2D scanner. As the NPA have also said, don't pick a supplier who ties you into a contract, and hence we are not doing minimum term contracts either.

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

No FMD from me until we are paid for it

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

Isn't FMD a legal requirement which means it is a must to comply with no matter you like it or not? 

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Looking around the shelves at work yesterday there are very few packs of tablets etc with the QR codes and security seals so it is not just contractors that are unprepared.  With just over a month to go I would have expected the majority of packs to be sealed and coded.


Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Is that because half the stock is months/years old as it has (allegedly) been in a wholesaler's warehouse waiting for a price concession...?

Oliver Staunton, Information Technology

Yep, I believe only about 5-10% of packs will be FMD-ready by February 9th, and it may take as long as 5 years before all POMs have both safety features (the 2D barcode and the anti-tamper device).

Brian Plainer, Locum pharmacist

Scrap it ! Jumping blindfolded through hoops at bequest of corporate legals' serves their members' hunger to holiday, while simultaneously hampering our profession's survival efforts - smacks of ruthless self-serving disregard.

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

Looks to me that 64% of pharmacies are well prepared for FMD. No point in wasting money.

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