Community pharmacists have been told by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, not to stockpile medicines in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
He said the government is taking steps to ensure that an additional six-weeks’ supply of medicines will be available in the UK, following a medicines scheme being agreed with manufacturers, to protect supply.
Hancock warned that any over-ordering of medicines would be “investigated and followed up with the relevant chief or responsible pharmacist directly”.
His comments were made in a letter sent to community pharmacies, GPs and NHS organisations, published on 23 August 2018 — the same day the UK government published 24 technical notices advising business and the public on steps to take if there is a no-deal Brexit.
Hancock wrote: “We will ensure the UK has an additional six weeks’ supply of medicines in case imports from the EU through certain routes are affected.
“Under the medicines scheme, pharmaceutical companies should ensure, therefore, they have an additional six weeks’ supply of medicines in the UK, on top of their own normal stock levels.”
He added that he would be writing to the pharmaceutical companies with more details.
Hancock said: “Hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies throughout the UK do not need to take any steps to stockpile additional medicines, beyond their business as usual stock levels.
“There is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions. Local stockpiling is not necessary and any incidences involving the over-ordering of medicines will be investigated and followed up with the relevant chief or responsible pharmacist directly.”
Community pharmacy negotiators, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said it was working with the Department of Health and Social Care, the Healthcare Distribution Association, the British Generics Manufacturers Association and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry to safeguard medicines supplies to patients after 29 March 2019, when the UK is due to leave the EU.
Mike Dent, director of pharmacy funding at the PSNC, said Hancock’s letter was intended to “reassure community pharmacy teams”. He added: “This logistics exercise is primarily aimed at pharmaceutical wholesalers, and as such there should be no need for local stockpiling.”
Ash Soni, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, welcomed the promise of an extra six-weeks’ supply of medicines.
“The fact that the government thinks it will be able to manage things is really good. I’m glad that we have got some clarification,” he said.
In a statement, the ABPI said it welcomed government guidance on increasing stocks of medicines, which it said would help NHS patients to continue to get the medicines they need in the event of a no-deal Brexit. But it added: “It is important to recognise that increasing stocks of medicines is just one important part of detailed contingency planning that will be needed by pharmaceutical companies, the government and the NHS.”