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Pharmacists’ shortages powers still under threat from legal challenge

The Good Law Project's lawyer told C+D it has made a “very strong challenge”

Pharmacists’ ability to administer alternatives in the case of serious medicine shortages is still under threat from a legal challenge, C+D has learned.

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” that could be announced by the government – rather than the prescription and without contacting the GP – in the event of a national medicines shortage.

A parliamentary attempt to revoke the powers on Monday (March 18) failed by 52 votes, despite criticism from MPs that pharmacists are “not necessarily skilled to make those judgements”.

Legal challenge enters new phase

However, legal proceedings by not-for-profit organisation the Good Law Project are still ongoing.

The Good Law Project launched legal proceedings against the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) last month, arguing the government had pushed through the regulatory changes “without proper consultation with patient and clinical groups”.

The High Court refused the request for a judicial review last Friday (March 15), stating that the short consultation period and narrow range of bodies consulted on was “not…unfair”.

But the Good Law Project’s director, Jo Maugham QC, told C+D this morning that the organisation has been granted an oral hearing on March 26.

The High Court was “clearly wrong” to refuse the initial request for a judicial review, as the Good Law Project has made a “very strong challenge” to the shortages powers, Mr Maugham said.

You “would hope the government would want to know” whether the shortages powers are lawful in the event of a no-deal Brexit, he added.

Result

Would you be happy to dispense an alternative under a government 'serious shortage protocol'?
Not sure. It would depend on the specific protocol
41%
Yes, I would be confident dispensing an alternative (quantity/dose/form/therapeutic equivalent) as designated by the government
48%
No. I would never be comfortable dispensing an alternative (quantity/dose/form/therapeutic equivalent) without consulting the GP
11%
Total votes: 118
1 Comments
Question: 
What do you think about the Good Law Project's challenge?

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

There are always some people with an alternative view. Some people believe that the planet is flat. Some think that kale juice is delicious and good for you. If people want to donate money to the Good Law Project then be my guest. 

These powers are very sensible and long overdue. Personally I would suggest going way further but one step at a time. Allowing pharmacists to make agreed substitutions in a market where shortages are rising due to worldwide shortages has got to be the right thing to do.

What I'm worried about is not the risks involved but why have we agreed to do this without a fee!

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