Call for pharmacists to be allowed to dispense from original packs during COVID-19 pandemic

The chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, Mark Lyonette, has called on the NHS to implement a series of contingency measures after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Mark Lyonette

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Source: Charlie Milligan

Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, has said that pharmacists should be able to dispense from original packs, as one of eight contingency measures put to the NHS

Pharmacists should be able to dispense from original packs as a time-saving contingency measure to cope with COVID-19, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has said.

In a statement, published on 11 March 2020, the NPA called on the NHS and the government to implement eight contingency measures “to mitigate against the impact of COVID-19 on pharmacy businesses”.

It said the measures would “help pharmacies maintain continuity of service to patients” in the face of an outbreak.

The NPA’s proposed measures include enabling pharmacists to “save time in the dispensing process by moving to original pack dispensing, rather than breaking packs to reach the prescribed number of tablets”, as well as allowing “flexibility in relation to re-packing medicines for sale from a bulk pack”.

It also calls on the government to “suspend obligations for non time-dependent pharmacy tasks,” noting the recent cancellation of the national clinical audit.

Mark Lyonette, chief executive at the NPA, said pharmacists are “meeting requests for advice about preventing coronavirus”, while also fulfilling everyday tasks.

“As always, community pharmacy is playing an invaluable role by diverting routine activity away from other parts of the health service facing extra workload,” he said.

“Therefore, it is very important that pharmacies are supported during this period, to stay operational as businesses and effective as frontline providers of patient care.”

The measures also asked the government to “consider the knock-on impact of limited hospital capacity for palliative care”, suggesting that community pharmacies may help more people in the community at the end of their lives. 

The NPA’s call for improved contingency measures comes after the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said it was in talks with the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care about funding arrangements for pharmacies that need to close temporarily and “cash flow solutions” to help pharmacists cope with rising medicine prices.

“Many pharmacies are small businesses with existing cash flow problems,” the NPA statement said.

“Coronavirus could exacerbate this situation, so an NHS scheme may be necessary to brings forward payments to pharmacy businesses and cover shortfalls.”

Pharmacists have already told The Pharmaceutical Journal that they have seen the cost of paracetamol increase drastically following the news that India would cease parallel exporting of the drug.

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, March 2020;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207820