With a no-deal Brexit looking like a stronger possibility after Parliament voted 432-202 to defeat Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, the National Pharmacy Association has reinforced its message that pharmacies should be allowed to share medicines with one another in case of shortages.
In order to limit the patient safety impact of potential medicines shortages in the wake of a no deal Brexit, the Government says it is planning to amend the Human Medicines Regulation to allow pharmacists to dispense medicines under a serious shortage protocol that would allow them to make substitutions for medicines prescribed by GPs. The proposed regulatory change is expected to go before Parliament this month.
The NPA says that it and other bodies lobbied for this amendment and that it is a “sensible contingency” but that further action is needed. It is calling for pharmacies to be allowed to share medicines with each other in case of shortages, a “flexibility” it says was in place until a few years ago, when it was withdrawn to comply with an EU directive, and “should now be reintroduced”.
Commenting on the serious shortage protocol, Sheffield pharmacy owner Martin Bennett told PM it was "one of the few ideas that are linked to Brexit that could be really useful.
He added: "Forget Brexit – let's have this all the time. We should also be allowed to round quantities to the nearest pack size unless there is a clinical need for a specific quantity."
Commenting on the wider problem of medicines shortages, the NPA says Brexit is “bringing to a head a number of issues that should have been grappled with years ago” and that although it exacerbates shortages, the root cause is “structural faults in the medicines supply chain”.
“Whatever the Brexit scenario that finally emerges, pharmacists will put the needs of patients first, as they always do,” the NPA said, adding that “major disruption to medicines supplies is something to be avoided at all costs, because of the worrying implications both for pharmacists and patients”.