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Manufacturers body 'uncomfortable' with pharmacists' shortages powers

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warwick smith BGMA director
Warwick Smith: Some patient information might not be available in a community pharmacy

The British Generics Manufacturers Association (BGMA) is “slightly uncomfortable” with powers to allow pharmacists to dispense alternatives in times of shortages, it has told C+D.

The Human Medicines (Amendment) Regulations 2019 order – which came into force on February 9 – includes provisions to allow pharmacists to dispense an alternative in accordance with a “serious shortage protocol” announced by the government – rather than the prescription and without contacting the GP – in the event of a national medicines shortage.

But BGMA director Warwick Smith said last month that his organisation is “slightly uncomfortable about the prescriber being overruled, without having any knowledge”.

“You would hope that the prescriber would have taken into account a number of details that could be specific to the patient, and frankly, [this information] might not be readily available or apparent” in a community pharmacy, Mr Smith told C+D after his presentation at the Sigma conference in Muscat, Oman.

“You need to be very careful in applying generally [legislation] that is brought in to cope with emergencies,” he added.

His comments follow the British Medical Association's claim that it is “not appropriate” to allow pharmacists to dispense an alternative without contacting a prescriber.

Pharmacy minister Steve Brine assured sceptics last month that the government is creating a “national, clinically chaired group” with “national oversight at senior doctor level” to advise ministers on when pharmacists should supply an alternative.

Not-for-profit organisation The Good Law Project sought permission last week (February 25) from the High Court to launch legal proceedings against the Department of Health and Social Care for pushing through the emergency shortages powers “without proper consultation with patient and clinical groups”.

8 Comments
Question: 
What medicines are you struggling to get hold of in your pharmacy?

ethyl bromide, Community pharmacist

Chickens and roost springs to mind

john oli, Marketing

well another unpaid task..... better send them back to the doctor

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Not that I'm totally OK with this legislation to 'substitute' products, but the fact that a manufacturer is huffing and puffing about it, is rather dubious to say the least!

Obviously they have a vested interest in prescriptions being switched to a competitors product....as a previous comment has said......ensure the supply meets the demand and there wouldn't be a problem!

On the flip side of this, a relative went on holiday (years ago!) and forgot their medication - Timolol for BP. The pharmacy looked for equivilent product as they didn't have Timolol in Malta.....have her Pindolol.....no problem.

I do think that sometimes our medical colleagues make far to much of a song and dance about medications.....most of which if in the same drug class wouldn't be a problem; any allergies/sensitivities should be recorded on the SCR.

Maybe the SCR shoukd also include the coded conditions, to ensure that licensed products were being used.

This is a service over and above the essential pharmacy contract, should be remunerated for and its dubious whether current 'retail' pharmacy indemity insurance would cover this....maybe it would?

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

Perhaps if they actually manufactured enough of their products, there wouldn't be a problem.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

They manufacture more than enough. They just manipulatesupply so thay can maximise price. 

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

Don't worry no pharmacist will use that power even in shortages. No one will risk their career and jobs to do such things that's unappreciated and people being ungrateful.  

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I appreciate the BGMA's point of view but I am not comfortable with them not making product available. Personally, since I see this as another unpaid task we may have to take on, I would just as soon send the patient back to the GP to get a new prescription.... Oh, hang on - can't do that as you can't get to see you GP for 3 weeks, since a different GP won't have necessarily have access to all the information on the details specific to the patient that you would hope that the prescriber would have taken into account.

A B, Community pharmacist

Always nice to get clinical advice from these types, I'm sure Mr Smith would listen to us if we gave advice regarding GMP and the medicine supply chain

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