The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has announced that it is in “urgent discussions” with the Department of Health about the problems and risks involved in pharmacies not being able to obtain vital medicines for patients.
This follows an inspection by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the generic medicines manufacturer, Bristol Laboratories, which reported ‘non-compliance with good manufacturing practice’. The MHRA has issued a partial suspension of the manufacturer’s licence.
PSNC said it was aware of the “very great difficulties that contractors are having sourcing a large number of products, with both shortage and pricing issues playing a part” and that this was having “a huge impact on workload and a catastrophic impact on cash flow”.
The negotiator said it was seeking “immediate action to offer some relief for contractors” from the Department of Health (DH) amid wider discussions on what the PSNC said included price concessions and “wider concerns about the numerous market issues that pharmacy contractors and teams are facing”.
PSNC chief executive, Sue Sharpe, said that for pharmacists, having to source supplies and ensure they meet patients’ needs was a “big additional work pressure at a time when many pharmacies are struggling to survive punishing cuts in NHS funding”.
“Smaller pharmacies have been particularly badly hit by government funding cuts and we are very concerned for their ability to survive the combined pressures,” she added.
Sharpe said the PSNC “was working to ensure the Department of Health understands the problems and risks involved in pharmacies not being able to obtain medicines for patients in a timely manner.
“We are working with the Department to develop ways of best managing the situation to help maintain the vital supply of medicines, including making speedy adjustments to address the impact of the high price rises we are seeing.’
Earlier this month [September 2017], PSNC raised concerns about Direct to Pharmacy arrangements involving a sole supplier of any given medicine to pharmacies, following a power failure at Alliance Healthcare, which led to disruption of services to community pharmacies. The negotiator said the reliance on a single supplier “exacerbates the risks for pharmacies and makes it more likely that any supply problems will leave them unable to meet patients’ needs”.
The MHRA said that for “those products that Bristol Laboratories are no longer able to supply, we are working closely with the Department of Health and other generic suppliers to ensure supplies continue to remain available for UK patients”.
PSNC has called for contractors to continue to report generic issues using its generic shortages form.