Pharmacists should be able to provide alternatives to prescribed medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a wholesaling body has urged the Government.

Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) executive director Martin Sawer called on the Government to allow pharmacists to alter prescriptions to ensure continuity of supplies if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Last month, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) director of pharmacy funding Mike Dent told The Pharmacist that PSNC had been lobbying the Government to enable pharmacists to give a ‘therapeutically equivalent generic’ instead of a branded version prescribed by the GP.


‘Emergency measures’


Speaking before Government’s body the Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday (23 October), Mr Sawer said that if the UK failed to reach a Brexit deal with the EU before March, the Government should introduce ‘emergency measures’ to ensure patients can access the medicines already in the country.

He added: ‘Medicines in the UK should be managed more appropriately. For example, by allowing pharmacists to substitute prescriptions to medicines they have available and share and use other pharmacies medicines, which they used to be able to do.

‘You could relax that law to allow the local community to share medicines around.’

As a former GP, Health and Social Care Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston recalled how difficult it was to supply medicines when shortages occurred.

‘It takes up an enormous amount of clinicians’ and pharmacists’ time chasing around for alternatives,’ she said.

‘It’s ok when that happens occasionally, with one or two products. But if that happens on a grand scale for many products all at the same time, that’s what I think concerns a lot of people.’


Shortages a ‘standard situation'


Responding to Mr Sawer’s comments, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that he was ‘not aware’ of any Government’s plans to give pharmacists powers to prescribe alternative drugs.

He argued that shortages of medicines or medical equipment are ‘constant’ and a ‘standard situation’ in the UK, as showed with the current EpiPens supply issues.

He said: ‘The response to such a shortage can be both to look for alternative supply lines and take a clinically-based decision on the appropriate reaction to the fact that whatever it is may not currently be as available as we would like.’

Mr Hancock added that the Government is currently working on measures to mitigate the number of future medicines going out-of-stock.