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Manufacturers resisted shortage solution, C+D investigation reveals

PSNC's Komal George: "We hope all manufacturers will adopt such a form"

Manufacturing body the ABPI opposed a standardised form to request emergency stock, but PSNC head of dispensing and supply Komal George says the negotiator will "press the matter"


Manufacturers have resisted attempts to reduce the burden of stock shortages on pharmacy teams by streamlining emergency orders, a C+D investigation has revealed.

The majority of members of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) opposed a PSNC suggestion for a standardised form for pharmacies to order urgent supplies from manufacturers, according to minutes of meetings by the government’s medicines supply chain forum last year.

The ABPI had argued that using a single form was “too open to abuse” and any changes to the arrangements would be “too costly”, according to minutes of three of the four meetings held by the forum in 2014, obtained by C+D via a Freedom of Information request.


Manufacturers considered that telephone was the “most efficient” way to manage emergency orders, according to the minutes of the group.

The ABPI told the forum it had concerns a standardised form could be mistaken for a legally binding contract. In addition, manufacturers who had invested in their own web-based ordering systems may not want to alter them, the ABPI said in the minutes.

But PSNC, which attended the meetings with representatives from pharmacy and wholesaler organisations, had argued in favour of a standardised form, the minutes showed. The proposed form – a set of “standard data” that could be sent by fax, phone or web portal – could “cut costs and reduce effort”, it had claimed.

Reducing pressure on pharmacy teams

PSNC head of dispensing and supply Komal George told C+D this week that the negotiator had developed a template form and would “continue to press the matter”. A standardised ordering form would help reduce pressure on pharmacy teams, who were wasting “valuable time” sourcing medicines, she stressed.

“We hope that all manufacturers adopt such a form and it would then be clear to pharmacy teams what the ordering process for medicines in short supply is,” she added.

ABPI distribution and supply chain director Rick Greville told C+D this week that it was important for companies to “unilaterally decide on their own distribution and contingency arrangements”. “The ABPI continues to support companies to manage supply shortage issues with pharmacies on a case-by-case basis,” he added.

The Department of Health told C+D that it had met separately with four manufacturers “towards the end of 2014” to discuss a standardised order form. “The companies were open to further discussions,” it said on Tuesday.

How would a standardised emergency order form benefit you?

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Pharmacy HLP, Manager

When ever possible ( not often ) we try to get drs to prescribe an alternative if available. This is such a joke and waste of patient, pharmacist and drs time. the stress for patients is a recurring theme.

THB _B, Community pharmacist

I try to order once. If I cannot get it, then for any future Rx we contact GP and get the patient changed permanently. If manufacturers cannot be bothered to ensure I can supply my patients then we and the local GPs have agreed we cannot be bothered to prescribe and supply their products. Vote with your feet guys!.

David Sarabowski, Locum pharmacist

The ABPI members are worrried about any increased costs caused by their own ineptitude in failing to provide a sufficient supply of their patented products to the UK market. I have no sympathy whatsoever. I suggest any shortages lasting over 10 days must be justified and explained to the DOH, incidental costs to the NHS in terms of pharmacist and doctor time wasted should be charged, and in the absence of an adequate explanation being provided the patent should be immediately and irreversibly revoked so that the generic manufacturers could step in. That would soon make them sharpen up their acts. ( Well we all can dream, can't we?)

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