The government passed legislation yesterday (April 29) permitting pharmacists in England, Wales and Scotland to supply medicines in schedule 2, 3 and part 1 of schedule 4, without a prescription “in a pandemic situation”.
The legislation states that the health secretary may activate the legislation by making “an announcement permitting pharmacists without prescribing rights” to issue the medicines patients need in cases where the patient has been prescribed the medication before.
Before making an announcement that relates to Scotland or Wales, the health secretary “must consult” with the ministers in the respective countries, according to the legislation.
Pharmacists may also be allowed “to change the intervals in prescriptions for drugs specified in schedule 2 or 3” during the pandemic, following agreement with the prescriber or – if they are unavailable – a person chosen by the prescriber to “agree this type of change”.
The legislation will also allow pharmacists to supply medicines in schedule 2 to part 1 of schedule 4 under a serious shortage protocol. This applies when “to help manage a serious shortage” the pharmacists might need to “reduce the amount to be supplied” or offer a “different pharmaceutical form of the drug that was prescribed”. This may “not necessarily [be] in a pandemic situation”, the legislation said.
The change in the law will apply only to “the area to which the announcement relates” and “during the period specified in the announcement”, according to the legislation – which was signed by home secretary Priti Patel. Earlier this month, Ms Patel consulted with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and asked them to “advise on the potential harms or risks” of implementing the measures.
The period to which these measures apply “must initially not be for more than three months”. However, this could be extended for additional periods, “of not more than three months at a time”.
Commenting on the legislation, Royal Pharmaceutical Society President Sandra Gidley said the legislation will help patients “needing ongoing treatment for palliative care or substance misuse therapy” to continue to access their treatment “when the usual means of prescribing and accessing it are unavailable”.
“Now the legislation has been published, we will shortly provide professional guidance for pharmacists who may need to supply controlled drugs under the new measures,” she said.