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Editor's view: RPS drugs shortages group is a bit short on detail


Editor's view: RPS drugs shortages group is a bit short on detail

When the Royal Pharmaceutical Society announced this month that it had set up an ‘advisory group’ to examine the causes of medicines shortages, things started to feel anticlimactic very quickly.

My immediate thought was anything that attempts to tackle one of community pharmacy’s great scourges is welcome. But as I got into the RPS’s press release, I felt unsure. It said the group will “bring together experts from primary and secondary care, patients, the pharmaceutical industry, suppliers, regulators, government and the NHS” without naming individuals and organisations. I mean, ‘pharmaceutical industry’ and ‘suppliers’ is vague isn’t it?

When you talk about a desire to examine shortages, tell us which wholesalers, pharmaceutical companies or any other supply chain players you are involving in that objective. 

We know British Generic Manufacturers Association chief executive Mark Samuels is on the group because we asked them. We also know National Voices, a coalition of health and social care charities in England, are part of it because they were named on the press release. We know former deputy chief pharmaceutical officer Bruce Warner will chair the group. But that’s it.

We asked the RPS when it might release all the names of individuals and organisations on the group and why it had chosen to withhold that information. It came back with: “We plan to release the full list of advisory group members and are currently waiting for a few individuals to sign off their biographical details and will publish the complete list next week.”

But if you say you’ve set up a group to look at drugs shortages and you don’t immediately say who specifically is on that group, you start to wonder who precisely will be asked what and who in particular, if anyone, will be held to account. Transparency is important as are specifics.

Maybe nobody will be held to account, or even asked awkward questions, given the group’s ‘advisory’ nature. Nonetheless, the RPS told us it will have “a wide range of events, including webinars for members on the frontline to share their experiences” and “interviews with community pharmacy organisations.” The RPS said it hopes to publish a report with recommendations before the end of the year.

Of course, I hope the group makes an impact but in the absence of important details, it feels flimsy. “What can an advisory group achieve in this space? It’s all a bit weird really,” pharmacist and local councillor Mike Hewitson posted on X. I tend to agree.


Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist.


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