Paul Mayberry, managing director of the Mayberry Pharmacy group in Wales, says Brexit has already had an impact on community pharmacies – and there could be less flexibility, more shortages and more confusion ahead
‘Brexit has already affected community pharmacy in a number of ways.
‘Firstly, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is currently trying to negotiate the new pharmacy contract, but because the Government is paralysed by Brexit they are not able to talk to politicians or get a better picture of the future. There’s no clear idea of funding because everything is on hold until a deal for leaving the EU has been agreed.
‘We’ve also already seen prices rise – not just for drugs but on the raw ingredients as well. The changes in exchange rates mean that the cost of generics has also gone up.
‘I think there’s been some impact on staffing as well – EU staff are worried and I’m finding it difficult to recruit. I have heard from talking to people in big pharma companies that they are definitely seeing a big shortage of international talent coming into the UK.’
‘This is all happening at the same time as the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) is coming in. Although the British Government and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are insisting that FMD will still happen even if we do leave the EU [without a deal], there’s no guarantee that the UK will be able to access the European hub, so what happens then?
‘We could be scanning all these barcodes but if we haven’t got access to the European database that stores all the data for EU-manufactured medicines, then it’s a waste of time.
‘I’ve also been told that if we were to achieve a version of Brexit like the Norway deal, then every despatch of medication will need to a permit to go through customs. If that happens then there’s going to be increased lead times for moving drugs from one country to another, which means that the paperwork slows everything down and shortages will continue to happen.’
‘Blame for pharmacists’
‘The replenishment of pharmacies is usually seamless and done in the background, so nobody really considers how pharmacists actually work in the backend of that. But Brexit has also brought the complexity of the supply chain to light and some patients are worrying about stockpiling.
‘I don’t know of any pharmacies that have admitted to stockpiling, but I have several patients on insulin who are doing it. They are ordering their prescriptions a little bit earlier and have got lots of boxes to see them through several months just in case their insulin runs out.
‘But what happens to community pharmacies, who have been told not to stockpile, if something does run short? If a patient goes into their community pharmacy and their medicine isn’t there then they will blame the pharmacist – that’s a worry for us.
‘On the other hand, Brexit has forced through some changes that will be nice to have in the future, such as making changes to the Medicines Act to allow pharmacists to do clinical substitutions. If there are any drug shortages due to Brexit, we will be able to a generic or a clinical substitution for the benefit of the patient at that time. It gives us more responsibility – and hopefully won’t just be used to address shortages caused by leaving the EU.’