Our response to Pharmacy Minister’s suggestion that pharmacists should not be allowed to alter prescriptions

Pharmacy press

Pharmacy Minister Dame Andrea Leadsom has suggested that allowing pharmacists to alter prescriptions and supply an alternative medicine “have the potential to exacerbate rather than mitigate supply problems”. In an answer to a written Parliamentary question, Dame Andrea indicated that pharmacists taking local action could inadvertently create a knock-on shortage and pointed to SSPs as a tool that community pharmacists can use to manage medicine shortages.

We were asked to respond to these comments.

Our Director of Legal, Gordon Hockey, said:

“The Pharmacy Minister’s comments are a little disappointing. Whilst it’s understandable that DHSC is cautious about creating unintended consequences in the fragile medicines market, there are many benefits to introducing great flexibilities in altering prescriptions for community pharmacists.

The introduction of Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) in 2019 was welcomed, but these are still restrictive and don’t make full use of community pharmacists’ expertise. We have long been pressing DHSC to think more broadly about what measures could help patients access medicines more quickly, as well as requesting that they issue more communications on supply issues to reassure patients and protect pharmacy staff from the abuse that they are reporting.

Other measures which we believe could be beneficial could include enabling pharmacists to follow advice on which products to substitute without the formality of an SSP. Additionally, being able to dispense alternatives to support patient adherence without the need to contact the prescriber, when one formulation is easier for the patient to manage than another, or to start urgent treatment more quickly if the prescribed item is not currently on the pharmacy’s shelves.”

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