Branded generics should be included in the serious shortage protocol (SSP) in the event of drug shortages, the National Pharmacy Association has said.

This comes amid concerns that medicines could be in short supply due to the impact of coronavirus, which has now been declared a global pandemic.

In a statement released yesterday (11 March), the NPA urged the government and NHS to set up contingency measures to help pharmacies manage in the event of shortages.

The SSP needs to include branded generics so that in the case of a medication being out of stock, pharmacists can switch it to an alternative without needing to return to the prescriber, the NPA said.

At the time this was reported, only one SSP was in place – Haloperidol 500mcg capsules – according to PSCN’s website.

SSPs came into force last July through legislation that allows community pharmacists in England to provide appropriate alternatives to patients in the event of serious medicine shortages without having to go back to the patient’s GP for an updated script.

Several community pharmacists told The Pharmacist earlier this week that they have been unable to get hold of paracetamol and ibuprofen from main-line pharmaceutical wholesalers.

The Pharmacist also reported that some of the UK’s commonest drugs, including paracetamol, could be in short supply because India has limited exports due to coronavirus.

To mitigate the impact coronavirus could have on pharmacy business, the NPA also asks the government to consider offering contingency funding for pharmacies that are forced to close due to staff shortages.

NPA chief executive, Mark Lyonette, said: ‘As always, community pharmacy is playing an invaluable role by diverting routine activity away from other parts of the health service facing extra workload.

‘Therefore, it is very important that pharmacies are supported during this period, to stay operational as businesses and effective as frontline providers of patient care.’

According to the statement, PSNC is in discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) to plan and prepare for the later phases of the Covid-19 outbreak.