Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Ash Soni has urged the government to consider allowing community pharmacists to substitute patients’ prescription medicines as fears the UK will face a large drugs shortage in the event of a no-deal Brexit intensify.
The RPS met with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) yesterday to assess the potential impact of Brexit on the drugs supply chain, patients and pharmacists and discuss possible contingency plans alongside manufacturers and suppliers, a meeting English Pharmacy Board chair Sandra Gidley described as “constructive.”
Earlier this year the health secretary Matt Hancock told manufacturers to stock six weeks’ of additional medicines but warned pharmacists not to stockpile drugs.
Soni, who met DHSC officials alongside Gidley and RPS chief executive Paul Bennett, said contingency measures the government needed to consider included allowing pharmacists to switch patients’ medicines.
However, there have been concerns that if the law was relaxed to allow pharmacists to alternate prescriptions, patients could be put on different medicines from their usual ones without consultation with their GP.
Soni (pictured) said: “We welcome the government’s aim to secure a withdrawal agreement with the EU to ensure the continued supply of medicines in the UK.
“But with continued uncertainty about a no-deal Brexit, it was reassuring to hear about contingency planning underway within government and the ongoing engagement with medicine manufacturers on this complex issue.
“We know that pharmacists are already routinely helping to manage medicines shortages and expressed our concerns about the impact of potential disruption to the supply chain.
“While we would echo the Government’s advice that people should not stockpile medicines, we also know pharmacists are often on the frontline when it comes to providing reassurance to patients who may have concerns.
“It is vital that the UK and EU work towards an agreement to ensure patients continue to have access to treatment and would urge all sides to make further progress in the coming weeks.”
Soni added: “In the event of a no-deal Brexit, we would look to the government and NHS to engage rapidly with the health professions about potential measures to support patient care, whether that is enabling pharmacists to substitute medicines or improving communication between clinicians about repeat prescriptions.”
Earlier this year Martin Sawer, the executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association, told a House of Commons health committee that the law should be relaxed to allow pharmacists to substitute prescriptions as well as put patients on medicines that have been obtained from other pharmacies.