The Department of Health (DH) has agreed 38 price concessions out of the 97 requested for November by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).

PSNC said: ‘We have made the DH aware of the hardship the situation is imposing on contractors, coming as it does on top of the recent funding cuts and margin recovery, and ultimately of the risks for patients who may struggle to access vital medicines.’

It added: ‘We will make applications for December as usual and continue to press for settlement of the backlog for November.'

Pharmacy contractors are still suffering the Government’s funding cuts imposed on them in 2016, which could lead to the closure of up to 3,000 pharmacies, as well as a Category M clawback.

Acknowledgement of cashflow issues

The DH told The Pharmacist it was 'continuing to consider the outstanding [concessionary prices] requests, taking account of the available information on prices and availability'

It said: 'DH recognises there is the potential for contractors  to be having cashflow issues due to various factors and Ministers have responded to two PSNC requests to increase pharmacy contractors’ advance payment.

'DH  fully recognises the importance of patients continuing to be able to access their medicines in a timely way and that pharmacists work hard to source medicines to maintain supply to patients.

' In the vast majority of cases where a concession price has been requested, there has been no significant supply issue and the drug has remained available to pharmacies and patients. Where the department is aware of supply issues affecting a generic drug, we work closely with the pharmaceutical industry, the MHRA and the NHS in order to mitigate the impact on patient care.'

Ongoing shortages

Over the past few months, many generic products have been experiencing shortage and pricing issues.

PSNC said: ‘We are continuing to work to ensure that the DH understands the problems and risks if pharmacies are not able to obtain medicines for patients in a timely manner, and to press for better systems to address the impact of high price rises.’

Price concessions are considered ‘when stock of a product in Part VIII of the Drug Tariff has gone short in the market or the product has been discontinued by the manufacturer and there is a more expensive alternative product available in the market’.

Before requesting concessions, the PSNC performs 'extensive checks on the market, to understand the situation’, and considers feedback from pharmacy contractors and suppliers.

Once the concessions are announced, contractors are automatically reimbursed based on the set drug reimbursement price rather than the Drug Tariff listed price.