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COVID-19: Pharmacists could supply controlled drugs without script

The measures will increase access to controlled drugs amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Priti Patel said
The measures will increase access to controlled drugs amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Priti Patel said

Emergency measures have been proposed to give pharmacists the power to supply certain controlled drugs to patients without a prescription during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Home Office intends to “put in place emergency measures” to prepare for the high demands that COVID-19 will place on the health service, home secretary Priti Patel said in a letter to Professor Owen Bowden-Jones, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) on Wednesday (April 1).

The measures would allow pharmacists to supply medicines in schedule 2, 3 and part 1 of schedule 4 under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 to patients without a prescription – in cases where the patient is “receiving them as part of ongoing treatment”.

The measures would also allow the supply of these controlled drugs under a serious shortage protocol (SSP), which would mean patients could be treated with alternative products where prescribed items are unavailable or in short supply.

The third measure the Home Office intends to implement is enabling pharmacists without prescribing rights to “change the frequency of instalments on instalment prescriptions without the immediate need for a new prescription from a prescriber”.

"Harms and risks”

The legislation will “help secure access to controlled drugs within the healthcare system in a pandemic and where there is a serious risk to human health,” Ms Patel said.

The risks associated with granting greater access to controlled drugs “have been taken into account”, she added.

The measures would apply in England, Scotland and Wales. Ms Patel added that the “Department of Health in Northern Ireland has said that it supports the proposals and indicated that it will introduce similar measures”.

The Home Office has asked the ACMD to “advise on the potential harms or risks relating to these three measures” and balance the “harms and risks” of not going ahead with the changes in the “current exceptional circumstances”.

The government intends to implement the legislation “as soon as possible”, Ms Patel said. No specific date has been given but Ms Patel asked the ACMD to respond by today (April 3).

12 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of the proposals?

, Community pharmacist

Yet more work palmed onto us which we simply don't get paid for.  Why should we take on extra responsibility without extra remuneration 

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

In a word, no. GPs job.not a pharmacists job. Get them to do their jobs properly rather than foisting everything onto pharmacists.

Madni Sheikh, Locum pharmacist

Another back door to misuse of drugs. What's to prevent an unscrupulous customer to collect from multiple pharmacies & then sell it off on the black market?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I can't imagine there are that many pharmacists out there who would be willing to use these powers with the associated risks.

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

Hell yeah!

Andy Burrells, Community pharmacist

Start from the bottom up- looking at this, there could be more red tape around a box of felodipine than OxyContin.
We need the regulations relaxing around standard POMs to benefit thousands rather than CD's to benefit tens.

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

Been saying it for ages all community pharmacists should be given prescribing rights either via special dispensation or a relevent acheivable course. 60% who have the qualification never ever use it , just aboul all community pharmacists will use it .The present course in my opinion is designed for hospital and  GP pharmacists.

John Boey, Community pharmacist

"Receiving as part of ongoing treatment". Right, it's one thing to rely on PMRs and knowing the patient personally, but what about walk-ins from another town? Is this applicable also to Blue Scripts (Methadone and Buproprion)? How can you have a reliable audit trail (especially with regards to S2 CDs) without a prescription? How are contractors supposed to claim for payment without the prescription?

The intention is sound, but there are too many details left out. Not to mention the sheer absurdity of allowing CDs dispensed without Rx, but not POMs or CD S5s.

Edward H Rowan, Locum pharmacist

Surely all the article is about is the extension of Emergency supplies to include CDs? It makes sense for the law to include CDs as being possible as an ES in the current circumstances. Surely we can do that?

Michael Lord, Community pharmacist

Can't be trusted to sell 100 pack of paracetamol, but can fill your boots with CD's. Genius!

Keith Sykes, Community pharmacist

Unlikely to happen on my watch 

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

I think that until the DoH actually start paying for all this stuff they can proceed and multiply. There is NO chance of us needing the powers anyway, The GPs are all tucked up safe out of harms way - they will be there to write scripts if paid enough

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