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NI pharmacists call urgent Stormont meeting on drug price worries

Pharmacy News

NI pharmacists call urgent Stormont meeting on drug price worries

The negotiating body for Northern Ireland’s community pharmacies met with members of the Stormont legislative assembly earlier today to call for immediate support with drug prices.  

Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland told a cross-party meeting of MLAs that 74 per cent of pharmacists are spending one to three hours sourcing medicines each day, with roughly 1,000 medicine packs affected by shortages per month.

Insisting that the Department of Health’s recent announcement of £5.3m in new funding for pharmacies will not be enough to tackle a shortfall of at least £20m, CPNI board director John Clark warned the situation will deteriorate further once the NI assembly and executive are formally dissolved on Friday. 

CPNI chief executive Gerard Greene said: “As medicine supply pressures deepen and the sense of concern builds, we have taken the opportunity to give elected representatives a full account of the gravity of the situation in terms of the very real health and patient safety concerns that are arising rapidly.

“This is just one symptom of an underlying problem – community pharmacy is operating with reduced funding of £20-30m this year compared to each of the last two years, and that is before rising costs are factored in.” 

He said the £5.3m funding announcement “falls far short” of what is needed to maintain the service and allow pharmacies to purchase drugs from wholesalers.

The Northern Ireland Drug Tariff “has never been designed” for local health needs, he said, adding that pharmacies “cannot be expected” to meet the current pressures without “proper assistance” from the department.

Pam Cameron, a DUP MLA and chair of the All-Party Group on Community Pharmacy, described the meeting as “deeply alarming”.

She spoke of an “unfolding crisis in pharmacy coupled with more and more medicine lines in short supply for our constituents,” adding that the situation needs “immediate attention” from the department to stabilise medicine prices.

Echoing Mr Greene’s calls for “far-reaching reforms” to the Drug Tariff, Ms Cameron warned that Northern Ireland’s pharmacies “are facing the very real prospect of going to the wall”.

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