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Emergency supplies: myths and facts

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Emergency supplies: myths and facts

Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Pharmacist at the NPA, provides a reminder of the key rules, plus some of the do’s and don’ts for emergency supply

Community pharmacists are often asked to make emergency supplies of prescription-only medicines (POMs), but are not always sure whether it is appropriate to make such a supply. There are two types
of emergency supply: at the request of a patient or at the request of the prescriber.

Emergency supply at the request of a patient

The pharmacist needs to follow these key rules:

  • Interview the patient
  • Verify that the patient has previously been prescribed the POM by a relevant prescriber (registered in the UK and EEA/ Swiss prescribers), and the appropriate dose 
  • Be satisfied that there is an immediate need for the POM to be supplied and that it is impracticable to obtain a prescription without undue delay 
  • Use professional judgement when considering whether or not to make an emergency supply.

The following are frequently held misconceptions about making emergency supplies at the request of a patient:

Myths 

  • An emergency supply at the request of a patient is a ‘loan’ of medicine which can be deducted from the quantity dispensed when the pharmacy receives the next prescription for the item
  • Pharmacies cannot charge for an emergency supply at the request of a patient
  • An emergency supply at the request of a patient can only be made when the doctor’s surgery is closed
  • The patient has to be a regular patient at the pharmacy
  • You can only supply five days’ worth of treatment

Facts

  • An emergency supply at the request of a patient is not a ‘loan’; it is a private supply of a prescription only medicine. There is no provision in the law for “loaning” against an anticipated NHS prescription. Pharmacists making such loans leave themselves vulnerable to potential legal or professional proceedings
  • An emergency supply at the request of a patient is a private transaction and whether or not to apply a charge, and what the charge levied should be, is a business decision
  • An emergency supply can be made at any time, provided that the pharmacist is satisfied that there is an immediate need for the POM to be supplied and that it is impracticable to obtain a prescription without undue delay
  • An emergency supply can be requested by any person who has been previously been prescribed the POM by a relevant prescriber
  • Supplies are limited to five days only for phenobarbital for the treatment of epilepsy or any Schedule 4 or 5 Controlled Drug (CD). For other drugs, you can supply a quantity not greater than enough for 30 days’ treatment except for:
    • Insulin, asthma inhalers, ointments or creams – smallest pack size available should be supplied
    • Oral contraceptive – sufficient quantity for one full cycle of treatment 
    • Antibiotic in oral liquid form – smallest quantity to provide full course of treatment.

This is an extract from a Superintendent Update, which also includes the key rules, myths and facts for emergency supply at the request of a prescriber. Members can download the NPA’s practical guidance and detail on legal requirements for emergency supply of POMs at npa.co.uk. Sign up to Superintendent Updates at npa.co.uk/my account.

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