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Legal expert questions removal of Medicines Act wholesaling exemption

Practice Head of healthcare at law firm Charles Russell David Reissner (pictured) has said the justification given for the changes – incompatibility with European law – "wasn't entirely genuine" and has questioned why the exemption was removed at all.

Legal expert David Reissner has questioned the potential impact of new laws preventing pharmacists without wholesale licences from trading medicines, saying the rules are unlikely to alter practice or deter people from exporting.

Last week, the MHRA confirmed its plans to remove the Medicines Act exemption that allows pharmacists to trade medicines without holding a wholesale dealer's licence (WDL), saying this would bring the UK in line with EU legislation.

Pharmacists who fail to comply with the new laws – which now only allow trading of medicines without a WDL where it is occasional, not for profit and is intended to meet the needs of an individual patient – could face criminal prosecution.

"It won't make a lot of difference, as anyone who wants to export will probably already have a wholesale dealer's licence" David Reissner, Charles Russell

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But Mr Reissner, head of healthcare at law firm Charles Russell, said the changes would make little difference to pharmacists in practice and would not stop people wanting to export medicines.

"The justification for removing the exemption was that it wasn't compatible with European law, but that wasn't entirely genuine because at least part of the reason was that it would make it more difficult for pharmacists to export," Mr Reissner told C+D. "Actually it won't make a lot of difference, as anyone who wants to export will probably already have a wholesale dealer's licence."

Mr Reissner reassured pharmacists that they would not face penalties for trading small quantities of medicines to improve medicines supply. "The MHRA has said it won't enforce the law if pharmacists engage in what it calls ‘non-commercial' trade," he explained. "I think it just rings a bit hollow to say it will turn a blind eye, because then you question why the exemption was removed in the first place."

But the NPA warned pharmacists that they should nevertheless be aware of the changes. "Pharmacists need to make sure that when these changes come into play on August 14, they are operating within the new regulations," said Gareth Jones, public affairs manager at the NPA. "The repeal of [this exemption] means that pharmacists trading commercially without a wholesale dealer's license will risk criminal prosecution."

Will the removal of the Medicines Act exemption affect the way your pharmacy operates?

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