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.