The Scottish National Party (SNP) has pledged to set up a pharmaceutical agency to oversee medicines supply chains and manufacture medicines “where necessary”, as part of its election manifesto.
This forms part of a wider commitment in the manifesto to spend an additional £2.5bn on the NHS over the duration of the next parliament.
The manifesto, which was published ahead of the Scottish parliament elections on 6 May 2021, said an NHS National Pharmaceutical Agency would have “a mission to secure safe and high-quality medicines at the most cost-effective price possible”.
“Where necessary this will include establishing expanded manufacturing capabilities for both generic medicines and ‘specials’, something already done on a small scale in NHS Tayside”.
The government opened the NHS Scotland Pharmaceutical ‘Specials’ Service in NHS Tayside in 2019, combining pharmaceutical company Tayside Pharmaceuticals and the pharmacy production unit based in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
The facility, which cost £26m to build, is located at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and was designed to manufacture a range of medicines to meet specific patient needs (see Box).
Mark Samuels, chief executive of the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), said that Scotland, as part of the UK, had the lowest average generic manufacturer selling prices in Europe.
He added that it would “be essential to support any new domestic manufacturing in a way that doesn’t impact fair competition”.
“The market is already highly efficient — from which NHS Scotland benefits — and this benefit should not be jeopardised,” he continued. “Consequently, the scope and responsibilities of any new NHS National Pharmaceutical Agency for Scotland would need to be very carefully worked out. The details matter. The BGMA, therefore, stands ready to work with stakeholders in Scotland to secure a more resilient supply of medicines to the NHS while ensuring they remain affordable.”
Clare Morrison, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) director for Scotland, said: “It is an interesting proposal, although at the moment there are very few details. However, we recognise the increasing issue of medicines shortages and know that similar approaches to the idea of an NHS National Pharmaceutical Agency have been taken in other countries to stabilise supplies of generic medicines. RPS Scotland would be keen to be involved in future discussions to ensure this proposal delivers the best care for patients in Scotland.”
The SNP manifesto added that the National Pharmaceutical Agency would also “work with the Scottish National Investment Bank to support investment in cutting-edge research and development to bring new medicines and jobs to Scotland”.
What is the NHS Scotland Pharmaceutical ‘Specials’ Service?
The NHS Scotland Pharmaceutical ‘Specials’ Service manufactures medicines for patients across Scotland and the UK that are required when available licensed medicines do not meet certain needs.
For example, the service may manufacture medicines for patients who have swallowing difficulties; specialist ointments and creams for dermatology patients; and medicines for patients who cannot tolerate preservatives and other ingredients contained within licensed medicines.
The service also provides support to research and development in NHS Scotland and universities in Scotland by providing medicines for use in clinical trials.
The service operates out of a purpose-built facility at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and combined two former NHS Scotland manufacturing units: one of which was also based at Ninewells Hospital, and the other at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.