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Wholesalers challenge pharmacies to develop medicine scanners

Practice The sector must pre-empt the European Commission's proposal for every pharmacy in the UK to have a barcode scanner to identify individual packs of POMs by 2017, the BAPW has warned

Wholesalers have challenged the multiples to come up with a solution to scanning prescription medicines in pharmacies, ahead of European anti-counterfeiting plans due to come into effect in 2017.

Pharmacy chains should work with wholesalers and IT software suppliers to come up with a working model for scanning medicines across the supply chain, said British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (BAPW) chief executive Martin Sawer.

If pharmacies do not plan for implementation they risk having scanning systems imposed upon them

More news on anti-counterfeiting

MHRA must end stalemate to avoid lagging behind EU on counterfeits

Counterfeits battle could see POM scanners in pharmacies by 2017

Pharmacy Voice urges MHRA to be tougher on counterfeits


Every pharmacy in the UK could have a barcode scanner to identify individual packs of prescription-only medicines by 2017, as part of the European Commission's falsified medicines directive to prevent counterfeit drugs entering the supply chain.

There had been a lot of "huffing and puffing" by the government and the pharmaceutical industry about how the directive should be implemented in the UK and pharmacy groups were missing an opportunity to show leadership in the supply chain, Mr Sawer told the BAPW annual meeting in London on Tuesday (June 18).

"My concern is that all the generics manufacturers, IT systems suppliers and all the pharmacy bodies need to be singing the same tune to make the supply chain safer," he told the conference.

The UK faced a different challenge to other European countries because the NHS could not afford to pay for a medicine verification system and pharmacy needed to make a case for how the directive could be implemented without using public money, he said.

"It would have to be a group of organisations like a big pharmacy chain, an IT software provider, maybe a wholesaler, [that] got together and looked at this problem as a strategic challenge," he told C+D.

Software suppliers had met with the NPA a year ago to discuss piloting a scanning system, but the pharmacy sector first needed to decide how it wanted the system to work, said Ian Taylor, managing director of pharmacy software designers Rx Systems.

"Do you scan at the point of labelling? Who's going to hold the central database? What type of scanners do you need? The sooner we get clarity on what those requirements are going to be the better," he told C+D.

NPA public affairs manager Gareth Jones agreed that implementing a pilot scanning system would be helpful, but said this was difficult while the MHRA and the European Commission continued to send out contradictory signals about whether scanning in pharmacies would go ahead.

"We are better off engaging in plans for implementation rather than leaving it to others to work out the detail and hand community a fait accompli," he told C+D.

What would be the best approach to create a working model for scanning medicines?

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Pharmacy HLP, Manager

3 d bar code linked to ETP2 readers should do it without too much pain or cost I should think.

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

RFIDs which cost fractions of a penny to produce can be added at the point of manufacture. The larger cost would be to fund scanners that can read the signal from the RFID, then have those scanners linked to PMR systems as a final check. Simples really. I still maintain the costs should be borne by Big Pharma manufacturers.

max falconer, Superintendent Pharmacist

This is the responsibility of the MHRA not of individual pharmacies,. If they can't perform a task like this they are not fit for purpose and should be abolished. Resulting funds could then be directed to pharmacies to do the job they have patently failed to achieve. Too many examples of incompetent government bodies that are allowed to carry on at huge taxpayers expense whilst the real work is done by business at the cost of productive activities like carrying for patients!

Rajive Patel, Community pharmacist

Max, the MHRA are self-funded organisation, not by the Tax Payer. They are funded via their license fees from medicines marketing authorisation holders and carry out statutory functions of regulating the Safety, Effectiveness and Quality of medicines and medicines devices for Human Use.

The directive for anti-counterfeit measures was generated at EU level. The MHRA and British Government have a legal obligation to enforce this. Indeed, the checks could be carried out at any point in the supply chain, however, it seems manufacturers and wholesalers are adamant it should happen at point of dispensing.

This could be a means of brushing responsibility onto pharmacists; and it is for this point, all stakeholders need to be reminded, that if Pharmacy does do this job, it wont be on the free and somebody will need to re-imburse, either the Manufacturers, the wholesalers, the government or a combination of all three. Fact is Pharmacists should not be made out to be equal stakeholders in this implementation. Frankly the BAPW are both cheeky and opportunistic to suggest pharmacy should come up with solution. It is their problem and their costs. If we are made to become implementers then they need to reimburse us.

Where on earth are all the pharmacy bodies, when issues like this surface. Who is representing us?

Rajive Patel, Community pharmacist

Has any pharmacy body, looked into the legal aspects of imposing these checks at point of dispensing? Can the MHRA, BAPW and Manufacturers force community pharmacies to make these checks at point of dispensing?

Anyway, if it does happen, we will all be due a big windfall, because our pharmacy representative bodies will negotiate a swell deal! I'd say £0.50 per scan per box seems reasonable. Have the BAPW worked out how they are going to link each scan to reimbursement systems? Best they get a move on with that

max falconer, Superintendent Pharmacist

Oops typo-caring for patients!

Rajive Patel, Community pharmacist

I hope the PSNC are taking note of this issue. The medicine verification system will need to be funded, not just hardware but the cost of compliance. In terms of reimbursing contractors, who will do this? Maybe the C&D should pose this question to Sue Sharpe. Also, whose mandate is medicine verification, will it be rolled up in the NHS terms of service since this will explain who will pay contractors.

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

As it is manufacturers' probable loss of revenue due to counterfeits that they are worried about, then let the manufacturers pay for any system that has to be imposed on pharmacy contractors. It's time for the manufacturers to stump up rather than UK tax-payers.

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