BAPW Urges Department of Health to Provide Leadership on Drug Shortages

The Department of Health needs to “stop sticking its head in the sand” regarding the problem of drug shortages, the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (BAPW) has stressed.

“We work in a supply chain which presents many conflicting incentives, and we must have leadership from the Department of Health,” Mark James, the chairman for the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers, stated at the Association’s conference earlier this week.

He urged the significance of working in partnership with all the different stakeholders to aim to furnace a mutual resolution which identifies the actual complexity of the problem, as opposed to playing a “blame game.”

Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), added that it is important that patients are seen as being the main priority, as drug shortages and supply problems are not purely policy matters, they have repercussions for compliance and patient outcomes.

Whitehead highlighted that drug makers cannot merely stop providing supplies to distributing pharmacies. “We can’t collude on data,” he commented, and also noted that the recent inquiry into drug scarcities by the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) in Parliament had not made any criticism of the manufacturing or the wholesale sector.

“The key stakeholders in the supply chain – representing manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacists – cannot resolve this situation alone. We have to work closely together with the Department of Health and in particular the DH Supply Chain Forum, to ensure that the medicines supply chain is as stable and secure as possible. Through our partnerships we have moved toward, and I believe the situation is improving. In fact, it looks like the tide is now turning as the exchange rates swing once again,” Whitehead observed.

“Action has to be taken to ensure patient safety, but no one party can force this issue on their own,” he added.

The All-Party Pharmacy Group review had called on the Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency (MHRA) to “improve its efforts to enforce obligations on those with licenses to conduct wholesale activities,” and to “consider carefully whether it is in the best interests of patients to see further growth in the number of Wholesale Dealer Licenses.”

Gerald Heddell, director of inspections, enforcement and standards at the MHRA, informed the conference that they are presently positioning together their complete response to the findings, but he pointed to Earl Howe’s preliminary response, which stressed that the interests of patients must come first, and applauded the requests to provide more teeth to Department guidance and MHRA enforcement activities.

Meanwhile, although the 2011-12 pharmacy capital settlement contains an extra £12 million to echo the additional work required for pharmacists to source drugs that are in short supply, dispensing doctors do not receive any extra funding, despite the fact they are spending an average of three hours a week on the additional work, the Dispensing Doctors Association reported.

“The Department of Health needs to act urgently to address medicines shortages, or fund dispensing doctors to continue to source medicines in short supply,” says the Dispensing Doctors Association, in a governmental briefing paper published this week.


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