ABPI CEO Stephen Whitehead comments on the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) inquiry into the issue of shortages in NHS prescription medicines, published on Tuesday 15 May.


The All Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) yesterday published its report on medicine supply shortages, and while we welcome the move towards resolving the issues in the medicines supply chain, we think this should go much further.

As I told MPs in January, the shortage in NHS prescription medicines has arisen because the UK now has among the lowest priced medicines in Europe and because of fluctuations in exchange rates. Some medicines intended for use in the UK are being traded and sold abroad for a profit by a small number of pharmacists and wholesalers, and this is putting UK patients at risk of not being able to get the treatments they need.

We welcome the call for more collaboration put forward in the group’s report, and we recognise that the only way to achieve a long-term solution to the problem of medicines shortages is through collaboration – this is why we are involved in the Department of Health's Supply Chain Forum.

However, we do not think the recommendations of the APPG go far enough. Without increased transparency between wholesaling and dispensing activity by pharmacies, industry is unable to prioritise dispensing to UK patients when they supply a product that is in shortage. To resolve this issue the ABPI is calling for a legal separation between pharmacy wholesaling and dispensing. This already occurs in some other EU member states and is recommended as best practice by the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This separation would also free pharmacists from the burden of spending additional time sourcing necessary medicines.

We will continue to work closely with pharmacists, wholesalers, and the Department of Health to help improve this situation. Patient wellbeing is the priority for all of us, and we are pleased that the need for action has been recognised by parliamentarians. It is now time to grasp the nettle and really get this issue sorted.

Stephen Whitehead
ABPI Chief Executive

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