As a contractor, the only thing I’ve done to prepare for the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) is go to a meeting held by my local pharmaceutical committee. There, I learned that not even the speaker was happy about the legislation, and was simply going through the motions.
As I scanned the room (pun intended) I noticed bewildered expressions, huffing sounds, tired questions no one could answer, and basically a blanket of doom and gloom.
"What happens if we decommission a product then the patient doesn’t want it?" Silence.
"How will the General Pharmaceutical Council use its powers to check we're compliant?" Silence.
My thoughts included: what would happen if we decommission at the point of handing out, and there’s a problem? What will we say to a patient as we try to take back their vital box of furosemide? I know that if we suddenly start suggesting "Oh, we're looking for fakes," my lovely patients will assume that all these years we have handed them counterfeit medicines. "No wonder my orlistat hasn’t worked, it’s fake!" will be ringing in my ears.
My other amusing thought was: will we then start categorising our staff as to how fast they can scan? Will the ‘budget level staff’ scan in the blink of an eye and mutter "Have a nice day!" before anyone can say "paracetamol"? Will the ‘elite level staff’ chat throughout the whole scanning process, asking all sorts of unnecessary questions, simply because they are glad that someone can still afford to pay them a visit? Hmm.
Ironically, right after the FMD talk, I went for a scan and shop at the local supermarket. I assumed my scanner would just total the cost. I also assumed the supermarket had done their necessary checks, and my apples and strawberries were indeed real. I had almost finished shopping when my scanner stopped working. It needed charging. All the data was gone. I had to use the conveyor belt.
I still don’t understand how pharmacy staff scanning medicines will make a difference to the supply chain. Does it mean it’ll stop the delivery drivers from opening the totes and adding in fakes? Or will it stop my dispensers from switching the statins to ones they bought from the back of an estate? I’m confused.
By comparison, a no-deal Brexit does look appealing – but only just.
The Contractor is an independent pharmacy owner in England