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Pharmacy Voice: Pregabalin prescribing guidance reduces legal risk to pharmacists

Rob Darracott: "Long-awaited" guidance is a "relief" .

NHS England guidelines to ensure branded Lyrica is prescribed for pain, in accordance with Pfizer's patent, will prevent pharmacists being placed in a "difficult position", says Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott

Prescribing guidance for pregabalin produced by NHS England has reduced the risk of pharmacists infringing Pfizer's patent, Pharmacy Voice has said.

A generic version of Lyrica has come onto the market but Pfizer has retained the patent for the treatment of pain, causing concerns from pharmacists about how to fulfill their dispensing duties.

Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott said guidance sent to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) last week (February 27) would ensure that pharmacists would not be “unfairly placed in a difficult position” of having to decide whether to follow a prescription to treat pain with the generic version.

In its guidance, NHS England said all GP practices must write the name of the branded version of the drug on any prescriptions for pain. Dispensers should try to ensure “as far as reasonably possible” that patients with a prescription for the generic version were still supplied with Lyrica, the commissioning body said.

GPs should also try to amend their electronic prescription systems to include this guidance, it added.

Mr Darracott said it was a “relief to see NHS England publish the long-awaited guidance”, which would ensure the drug was consistently prescribed across CCGs and avoid delays for patients to receive their medication.

Last month, Numark told C+D that pharmacists could be tempted to disobey the restrictions on prescribing the generic version if they had run out of Lyrica.


What do you think about Lyrica's patent?

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A shame that the only position Rob Darracott has apparently clarified is the legal one. The moral position ie all patients' interest is of greater importance Pfizer's position shows morality which make pay day lenders seem paragons of virtue

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

As we could theoretically end up in court I think we need a proper legal definition of "as far as reasonably possible". If GPs ignore the guidance surely they should be held to account and pharmacists should not have to jump through hoops!

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

It would be useful to have some guidance on what constitutes "as far as reasonably possible" - is it ordering from alliance and being told Pfizer say no, or do we have to go through the routine of begging for it to be sent or should we make patients wait untl our allocation is renewed?

Paul Mayberry, Community pharmacist

We have been told by Pfizer that we have exceeded our quota of Lyrica , that we were allowed 1 emergency supply per month, if we wanted more we would need an audit, and if we couldn't fulfil the rx we could always send the patient to Boots! After the patient expiry we will be asked if we want to buy the Pfizer generic version at brand price, with a possible rebate to a generic price if we hit our target. I know what my answer will be. But this latest patent farce is the act of a massive pharma company that has now lost the last of its big drugs. After this , what do they have?

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