Parts of the medicines supply chain have started stockpiling drugs in anticipation of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, against government recommendations, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has warned.
Simon Dukes, chief executive at the PSNC, said on BBC Radio 5 Live on 17 December 2018 that he had heard “anecdotally” that parts of the supply chain had begun stockpiling medicines, despite specific advice from the government that only manufacturers should do so.
The government has asked drugs companies to maintain a six-week medicines stockpile for six months, but in a letter sent to pharmacies, GPs and NHS organisations in August 2018, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock warned that any “over-ordering of medicines will be investigated and followed up with the relevant chief or responsible pharmacist directly”.
A further letter was sent on 7 December reiterating that community pharmacies “should not stockpile additional medicines beyond their business as usual stock levels”.
However, Dukes told the BBC: “What we’re seeing anecdotally is that — although the secretary of state has been very clear and issued a letter to industry, only the other day, that six weeks’ supply should be stockpiled by the manufacturers — I think anecdotally what we’re seeing is that other stockpiling is happening in other parts of the supply chain and that may well be exacerbating some of the supply issues we’re seeing.”
The PSNC was unable to provide further details on which organisations in the medicines supply chain were stockpiling against government recommendations.
But Nick Hunter, chief officer at Doncaster Local Pharmaceutical Committee, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that — based on conversations with contractors — he understands that “a small number of pharmacies” are “stockpiling as much of whatever they can”.
However, he added: “I don’t think it’s massive because there’s too much risk in the system.”
He explained that the only drugs that people are likely to want to stockpile, such as generics with limited manufacturers, are already hard to get hold of or very expensive, with reimbursement rates being much lower than cost price.
Responding to questions of whether community pharmacies have started stockpiling, Ash Soni, president or the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “I’ve not seen it.”
He added that pharmacies could not afford to stockpile in case the price of currently expensive drugs fell as a result of a resolution of the Brexit situation.