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Xrayser: Pregabalin prices rob us as much as ram-raiders

"Are we more at risk in this touchy-freely world of interactive consultation skills?"

Xrayser questions how any pharmacist can feel safe at work when they're facing threats from criminals, insurance firms and the government

When you think about a refit for your pharmacy, it looks great in the brochures. Glossy pictures of happy, smiling staff serving happy, smiling middle-class patients – in no way representative of the average people in a typical pharmacy.

Where are the ranting psychotics? The smelly and dishevelled results of a small and stagnant gene pool? Or the attention-deficient kids who have a safeguarding risk from me, never mind their parents.

We used to serve behind counters, and dispense inside separate rooms with a door or just a hatch to the chemist counter. Now, in this touchy-freely world of accessibility and interactive consultation skills, we are up close and personal with everyone who comes into the pharmacy, and that’s not always a good experience.

So, my question is: do you feel safe at work?

As I write this, I’m trying to keep an eye on a young couple. She has the look that used to be termed ‘heroin chic’ and he is accessorising a voluminous coat – on this warm summer day – with several half-empty bags.

I wish I could chuck them out and lock the door so I can concentrate on work, but it seems you can’t even lock them out, since we’ve been broken into twice in the last three months.

Starting with a call from the alarm company at God Almighty o’clock in the morning, I arrive to find someone smashed through the front door. Desperate or high – or both – they tried to break the metal bottom panel, which held, so chucked a brick through the glazed top. The loss of fifty quid’s worth of stock leaves us with a £3,000 bill for a new door and being boarded up for six weeks.

Then, barely a month later, our nice new door is subject to a full-blown ram raid. The use of a car meant a buckled metal door that we couldn’t open. It was three hours before we could enter the pharmacy, and for the first time in 17 years – having battled floods, power cuts, vandalism and staff illness – we couldn’t open on time.

This preceded four hours of arguing with insurance and emergency repair companies as to who would pay for what, and for a while it looked as if no one would help or affect a repair, despite the ever-increasing premiums we pay.

So, I didn’t need a C+D crime investigation to tell me that I’m at risk, and it didn’t say that I’m equally at risk of being ripped off by our insurance company and their accredited charlatans.

At least the police attended and investigated our break-in. But a greater wrongdoing going unpunished is that being practised by the Department of Health and suppliers, over drug pricing such as pregabalin and quetiapine.

Both are making big savings and big profits, yet it seems no one can do anything about this particular daylight robbery.

Check out C+D's interactive map to see the extent of crime in pharmacies in your area, and let C+D know if you have experienced a crime in your pharmacy by emailing [email protected]


peter kelly, Community pharmacist

Interesting article. 

S Morein, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Strange not a single contractor grumbles when the far more prevalent occurance happens of a product coming off patent and the generic price is more than 90% cheaper than the tariff for months on end. Wonder why that might be?

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Months on end, Mr(s) Morein?  Examples please.  This would be a good chance for you to show that you actually know how pharmacy reimbursement works, given your apparent authority on such things.  The floor is all your's....

C+D Xrayser, Community pharmacist

That is because such profit gain is taken into account by DH when calculating the agreed retained profit in the global sum, whereas profit loss from use of Branded Generics or the current situation of generic prices being in excess of tariff reimbursement is not. "The house always wins"...

S Morein, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Sorry to disagree with you Xrayser but the DH examines a statstically accurate sample of all products. This includes those you mention. Yes there are winners and losers as will all large contracts but both profits and losses on purchases are taken into account.

C+D Xrayser, Community pharmacist

The statstically accurate examination you mention captures the profit from new generics, but PSNC recognises branded generics and generic shortages as a problem "raising the issue with the Department of Health for a number of years" and has a page dedicated to "Dispensing at a loss"!

S Morein, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

A statistical survey like the magin-survey takes into account the profit or loss generated across a meaningful sample of all products. These will of course include branded generics and generic shortages. The product mix is variable across all contractors. However, the undisputable evidence is that for years the margins-survey has grossly under estimated retained profits and even the so called claw backs do not really reflect the excess profits retained.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

You can read a webpage Mr(s) Morein, congratulations are in order!  Now some examples of patent expiries with a "months on end" period before the Tariff price caught up, if you please.

S Morein, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Take your pick of the majority of off patent generics since the contractual framework started in 2005. Perhaps you would care to explain how the overpayments that are agreed occured?

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

The overpayments that are agreed?  

S Morein, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

The many clawbacks that have already occured are agreed by the contractors via the PSNC.

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

Isn't it about time we had explanations for the dramatic price rises of generics. Each time a generic goes into a shortage situation a statement should be issued  as to the reason and immediately the ncso system reintroduced so we can supply the branded alternative .

this system of waiting 12days from the beginning of the month to find out what the revised payment price will be (or not be )is unsatisfactory.

The DOH should investigate the cause and then levy a fine against the generic company involved if there is no genuine reason for the disruption of supplies. In addition to the fine  invoice them  for the cost of all the ncso endorsements.

If there is collusion between manufacturers massive fines should be levied as soon as possible to deter this practice. I am sure a Pfizer level of fine against a generic manufacturer would resolve the situation. Is there a pattern of shortages from one supplier or suppliers ?

These are all questions that need answering as soon as possible in the interests of patients, contractors, the DOH and taxpayers.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

It's a legal racket. And racketeering is only about money.

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