Government warns pharmacies must not stockpile medicines

Guidance from the health secretary that healthcare organisations such as community pharmacies should not stockpile medicines over concerns of a no deal Brexit has been welcomed by the The Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA UK).

Pharmaceutical companies should prepare to ensure they have an additional six weeks’ supply of medicines on top of their normal stock levels, the Government has said as part of plans to prepare for the possibility of a no deal.

Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock outlined the plans in a letter to the NHS.

However, community pharmacies, hospitals, and GPs do not need to stockpile medicines, the government advised. Incidents involving the over-ordering of medicines will be investigated, warned the letter.

There is also no need for clinicians to write longer than normal prescriptions and patients should not store additional medicines at home.

HDA UK welcomed the proposals, saying that all possible outcomes of the ongoing negotiations should be planned for.

The organisation confirmed that it has been working with the DHSC and other medicines supply chain representatives on assessing current levels of preparedness to ensure the supply of medicines to patients across the UK, including the building up of appropriate buffer stocks.

“We welcome the Government’s plans to develop contingency plans to build up buffer stocks, as they recognise the importance of ensuring patients continue to receive their medicines in the right place, at the right time. We believe this is a sensible and pragmatic approach at this stage. However, we are clear that a Brexit agreement must still be the primary objective,” commented Martin Sawer, HDA’s executive director.

The process will require careful management to avoid stock shortages, suggested Mr Sawer. “HDA members ensure a resilient and flexible supply chain that is very well placed to support the Government’s plans. However, the devil will be in the detail, with the need for any stockpiling to be carefully managed in order to avoid challenges such as medicine shortages, caused by changes in purchasing patterns.”

Association members are in constant contact with their supply chain partners, from manufacturing to dispensing in order to understand likely demand and potential supply pinch-points, he said.

While the government is confident of a good deal with the EU, “as a responsible government, we continue to prepare proportionately for all scenarios,” said the health secretary.

DHSC has “stepped up” planning for a no deal scenario, he advised, to ensure a “sufficient and seamless” medicines supply. He said that he was confident that the proposal gives a clear basis for the sector to plan ahead, “so that patients can continue to receive high quality care unhindered”.

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