Al Patel, contractor at Lee Pharmacy in South East London, reports on how his staff have been preparing for the introduction of the Falsified Medicines Directive

With the deadline for the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) – a pan-European set of anti-counterfeiting measures designed to stop the spread of fake medicines – now just weeks away, we’re asking how well prepared UK pharmacists are for implementing the changes.

Al Patel, independent contractor at Lee Pharmacy in London, tells us about his experience with just under four weeks to go until the 9 February implementation deadline.


Choosing the right software


My initial plan was to go with a patient medical record (PMR) company and so I’ve been signed up with them for the last couple of months. In November, they were going to send out the scanners and more information, but nothing happened that month or in December. It was only last week that they emailed me to provide a pricing structure of what their system for the FMD software will cost.

I’ve now changed my perspective because their costing is absolutely sky-high compared to other providers. None of this is rebated by the NHS or any other organisations, so it will come out of our own pocket.

So I decided to quickly run through the FMD source website to look at other companies. The packages are all completely different – a lot of the companies don’t have a set-up fee, most charge you between £120 and £150 for the scanner and a £25 to £28 monthly fee.


A change of plan


This week I found another company, which looks promising. The proposition is that it won’t cost at all for the first 12 months. We will purchase the scanner and install the software ourselves, but if there are any troubleshooting issues then we’ll have assistance with those. I’ve signed up to receive further information about the system, but at this stage I’m planning on buying the scanner myself and signing up.

I think that may take another week or possibly two weeks to get sorted.


Educating pharmacy staff


In the meantime, I’ve been holding meetings with pharmacy staff to get them clued up on what FMD is, how it’s likely to work depending on the system we get and also how our workload will change as a result. These meetings actually started back in September, but with the delay of information from our original software provider, they were put on hold.

We started the meetings again this month, where questions have been raised about what could happen with FMD after Brexit. We’ve also discussed what the change from the PMR company set up to this new standalone system will mean in terms of our workload. It will probably increase our workload slightly because the advantage of having a PMR system is that it will also do an accuracy check, whereas a standalone system doesn’t have that. But for us it’s not a big issue – the pharmacy staff can do an accuracy check manually.


Approach to staff training


We will evaluate what problems the system is throwing up and how it’s stepping us back in terms of workload as we go along and staff training will be delivered in-house in response to that. It is an extra step in our dispensing so if we find there are a lot of backlogs, for example, then we will decide in our team meetings how to proceed. The team meetings will provide that opportunity to iron out any issues and discuss the best ways of working.


Are we ready?


With the deadline only four weeks away, I’m not that confident at the moment that we’ll be ready on time. We’re also facing extra hiccoughs elsewhere in the pharmacy, which are not helping us move fast enough on FMD. In the last couple of weeks there’s been a manufacturing problem with aspirin, which almost every other patient is on. Trying to get patients changed from aspirin to something else is such a big burden. It’s shocking really – it’s like going into a pharmacy and asking for paracetamol to be told they don’t have any.

However, I’ve been slightly reassured by the information we’re getting from some of our suppliers to say not to worry if the next lot of medication we receive doesn’t have the special 2D barcode for scanning into the FMD system. Not everyone is going to be ready on time because there are tablets or packages in circulation at the moment that aren’t coded, so it feels like there is a bit of leeway around it all. But obviously, we still have to get ourselves organised as soon as possible.