In response to the publication today of the Social Market Foundation's report on parallel trade in medicines, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said that it highlighted several important issues relating to the safety of patients taking medicines.
In particular, the ABPI shared the report's concerns that "the practice of re-packaging of imported medicines has the potential to put patient safety at risk". This was highlighted recently by a Parliamentary Answer given by the Minister of Health, Rosie Winterton, who said that there had been a number of compliance failures with imported packs of medicines.
The ABPI welcomed the report's proposal that pharmacists should advise patients when a parallel traded medicine is being offered to them and then give patients the choice of whether to accept or reject it.
"What would your reaction be to selecting grocery products from a supermarket shelf only to find they were labelled in a foreign language with an extra sticky label in English and repackaged into entirely new boxes from their original? There is no everyday consumer product that the public would buy packaged like this. Surely, then, it is simply unacceptable that this still goes on with such critical products as medicines and on which lives may, and often do, depend," said Dr Trevor Jones, Director General of the ABPI.
The ABPI confirmed the report's findings that nearly one in five medicines dispensed by high street pharmacies are now parallel imports from abroad never intended for purchase in the UK. The ABPI also noted the findings of the SMF report that the financial savings to the NHS from parallel traded medicines were modest.
"The NHS gains little financially from the use of parallel imports. Moreover, UK patients can be confused by the medicines that they receive and there is a real danger of loss of integrity of the original product due to repackaging. The loss of revenue to the pharmaceutical industry in the UK threatens pharmaceutical manufacturing, research and jobs," said Dr Jones.
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410