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Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

General News

Branded Medicine Supply Problems Best Practice Guidance Launched

Update 3rd February 2011:

Best practice guidance for ensuring the efficient supply and distribution of medicines to patients has, today, been jointly published by the representative bodies of all parties in the supply chain along with the Government and regulators.

The key points in the guidance are:

  • An expectation that, under normal circumstances, pharmacies should receive medicines within 24 hours;
  • Requesting faxed prescriptions prior to supply is not acceptable routine practice and where verification is necessary, dispensers should not disclose patient or prescriber identifiable details;
  • The importance of regular communication between manufacturers and wholesalers so that all parties have a good understanding of the supply and demand for particular products;
  • The need for all in the supply chain to have contingency arrangements in place to source supply where there are supply difficulties;
  • Prescribers should, where appropriate, consider a change in medication for patients and advise patients to request prescriptions in good time where there are supply difficulties.

The development of the guidance is one of a number of actions being taken to ensure patients receive their medicines. Other actions include:

  • The proactive, targeted inspection of WDL holders by the MHRA with enforcement action where existing duties to supply medicines have been breached;
  • Maintaining a list of products in short supply, so that no-one has the excuse that they were not aware of supply difficulties. The list of products that pharmacies have reported problems obtaining can be found in the supply issues section of this website;
  • The Department of Health has also committed to exploring with manufacturers and wholesalers how a more explicit duty may be introduced to ensure that sufficient stocks are available to meet the needs of patients.

Responding to the publication of the guidance, PSNC Chief Executive Sue Sharpe said:

“PSNC recognises that the work in sourcing products has put an immense burden on community pharmacy, that every hour spent sourcing medicines in shortage is an hour diverted the delivery of key NHS services, and that the situation has not improved.

“We welcome this Guidance as a step in the right direction. Given that a collaborative approach will be crucial in addressing this issue, it is positive that has been agreed by all parts of the supply chain, including manufacturers. We are also pleased that the guidance explicitly recognises that requesting faxed prescriptions prior to supply is not acceptable routine practice.

“However, there is much still to be done if pharmacies are to be able to give confidence to patients who have experienced delays in sourcing the medicines they need. We will continue to do all we can to improve the situation, and will look to explore with the Department how they might take enforcement action to ensure appropriate practice going forward.”

Click on the link below to download a copy of the guidance in full

Best Practice for Ensuring the Efficient Supply and Distribution of Medicines to Patients (PDF File)

Update 11th January 2013

The references in the guidance have been revised to reflect current law, and the document is available here.


Background information on the current branded medicine shortages can be found in the supply issues section of this website.

Posted 11 January 2013

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