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PSNC logo high resSeptember 26 2017

Recent supply problems of medicines caused by a wholesaler having a power failure have been raised with the Department of Health.

 The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has flagged up the issue as the supply problem affected a number of products that fall within the restricted distribution arrangements, whereby pharmaceutical manufacturers may restrict the supply of a product to an individual wholesaler.

The power failure at the wholesaler took nearly a week to resolve before supply was said to have returned to normal. It increased workload for pharmacies in sourcing alternate supplies of products, but especially caused problems for those medicines only distributed by that wholesaler, said PSNC.

Sue Sharpe, PSNC’s Chief Executive, has issued a statement saying PSNC was “very concerned” about the impact the supply failure had on community pharmacies.

“We know how much harder many community pharmacy teams had to work to ensure that patients had access to the medicines they needed; and of course this came at a time when pharmacies are already under immense pressure,” she said. “Only the hard work and extraordinary efforts of pharmacies prevented this closure leading to a catastrophic impact on the NHS caused by many thousands of patients being unable to get the medicines they needed.

“PSNC is and has always been very concerned about Direct to Pharmacy arrangements involving a sole supplier of any given medicine to pharmacies. 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.

“When these arrangements first began a few years ago we opposed them. We have continued to monitor the situation since then and after the problems last week we have again escalated the issue with the Department of Health.

“PSNC remains of the view that a wholesale market which promotes competition and allows pharmacies to choose from a number of medicines suppliers is the best way to ensure that we retain a resilient medicines supply chain and that community pharmacies can continue to provide patients with the medicines they need, when they need them. We will do all that we can to promote this.”

Gary Warner, a PSNC Committee member, has described how the incident affected his pharmacy, and how the network of community pharmacies was able to work to source products from each other before stock deliveries resumed.

“NHS commissioners and politicians must understand what is at stake when they talk about reducing clusters of pharmacies and moving to more automated dispensing,” he said. “It was the vibrant network of pharmacies, all competitors but also willing to help one another when patients’ interests are at stake, who saved the day. That simply could not happen with significantly fewer pharmacies. Internet pharmacies or vast warehouses would certainly not be able to interact in this way.”

Links:
PSNC statement                
Gary Warner’s statement           

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