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Contractors: Free vitamin D distribution should come from pharmacies

Contractors said that a pharmacy-run vitamin D scheme could benefit at-risk patients

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) should have commissioned pharmacies to distribute free vitamin D to clinically vulnerable patients, contractors have told C+D.

Last month (November 28), the DH announced that 2.7 million clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) individuals will receive free supplies of vitamin D from the government this winter, with deliveries to care home residents and eligible individuals who decide to opt in expected to begin in January.

CEV patients will receive supplies that will cover them for a four-month period, the DH said.

A DH spokesperson told C+D last week (December 3) that the government is running a procurement process for the supply and delivery of vitamin D supplements of 10 micrograms (400 IU).

While the free supplies of vitamin D will not be distributed through pharmacies, pharmacy contractors can apply through the procurement process, they added.

Independent pharmacy contractors and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) CEO Leyla Hannbeck have told C+D that the scheme could cause financial losses for contractors and that a pharmacy-run scheme would have been a better solution.

“Negative effect on finances”

Martin Bennett, chairman and superintendent pharmacist at Wicker Pharmacy in Sheffield told C+D last week (December 2) that he fears the DH vitamin D scheme will “have a negative effect on finances to some degree”.

“We currently both sell and dispense significant quantities of Vitamin D3. A voucher scheme that could be redeemed in a pharmacy would be a better way of achieving the same outcome and would ensure advice is to hand when the item is supplied,” he added.

Kiran Patel, pharmacist and owner of Beautychem Pharmacy in north London also fears the DH vitamin D scheme will “affect profits”, as his pharmacy sells approximately 30 boxes of vitamin D a month.

“Distributing through pharmacy would have been a sensible way forward. It’s not only about supply, it’s also about appropriate counselling – which pharmacy is best-placed [to offer] – and educating this way results in better compliance,” Mr Patel told C+D last week (December 4).

The DH scheme could also result in “false expectations from the public that they will be able to obtain this free of charge from pharmacies”, Mr Patel added.

Pharmacy: “a supply with consult service”   

AIMp CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D last week (December 3) that over-the-counter (OTC) sales are down to 7% of most AIMp members’ combined NHS/OTC income.

“While we welcome the government’s move to highlight the benefits of vitamin D to the public, particularly during these unprecedented times, we would have liked to see a scheme through community pharmacy, using the skillsets of pharmacy teams to supply vitamin D at the same time as providing professional advice and support about it,” Ms Hannbeck added.

Jay Badenhorst, superintendent pharmacist at family-owned chain Whitworth Chemists, told C+D last week (December 2) that he is not sure whether the DH vitamin D programme will have an impact on its pharmacy chain's sales.

However, he believes that people who cannot afford to buy vitamin D supplements should be able to get them for free through a pharmacy-run scheme.

“Even supplements can be dangerous if taken incorrectly and, if not monitored, could be a waste of money. I think the government could look at community pharmacy as a supply with consult service in order to explain the importance of the supplement and also then play a part in monitoring the use,” Mr Badenhorst added.

Public Health England advises that 10 micrograms (400 IU) of Vitamin D a day should be taken by everyone between October and early March.

6 Comments
Question: 
Do you sell many tablets of vitamin D?

Karen Arnold, Pharmacy technician

Already a shortage of valuepack vitamin D in our pharmacy. Next our own brand will disappear and then the expensive ones. Great another empty shelf.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Been taking 5000-10,000 IU of vit D3 daily for years, (with vit K2). Hardly ever ill. 

O J, Community pharmacist

Haven't all you "clinical" pharmacist worked out what DoH is asking?

From the comments in the article, with respect, the DoH does not give a flying change to the clinical input. Its worthless.

The Writing is on the wall.

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

as most elderly people will be deficient in vitamin d to start with (unless they have been given calcium and vitamin d tablets ) wouldn,t it have been more sensible to give them a higher dose ? Eventually vitamin d will be shown to have been useful in reducing death rates from covid and we will have been giving these people a dose that was not high enough to help them !

O J, Community pharmacist

Mr Caustic
Thank you for your suggestion. We are only looking to procure colecalciferol 400 iu for 4 months. Can you do that?

Regards
DoH

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Why all this fuss? I would have been wise if the GPs have been asked to prescribe to this class of vulnerable people (who in most cases do not pay for Rxs) This way, all will be happy. Looks like, how the PPE scandal came to light, there is someone in the Government circle benefitting from this scheme!

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