The government has set out its strategy to beat shortages of medicines in the supply chain.
In a guidance note, Best Practice for Ensuring the Efficient Supply and Distribution of Medicines to Patients, the Department of Health says the aim of all parties in the supply chain should be that, under normal circumstances, pharmacies should receive medicines within 24 hours.
Pharmacists in the UK have been complaining for more than a year about the difficulty in obtaining medicines. Changes to the supply chain combined with the falling value of the pound have led to claims that medicines earmarked for the UK are being diverted to more profitable markets.
The Department of Health guidance calls on manufacturers to “make best endeavour to fill all UK orders, in a timely and prompt fashion. In planning stock holdings, manufacturers should hold a reasonable volume of buffer stock to ensure continuity where there are fluctuations in demand, for example if there is a sudden reduction in parallel import availability in the UK or where there are time lags or reliability issues with the data used to forecast demand.”
Where quotas are used, manufacturers should ensure that they are set equitably, and manufacturers should have contingency arrangements in place to supply product where stock is exhausted at wholesalers, pharmacies or doctors’ dispensaries.
It calls on wholesalers to do their best to put in place measures and controls that ensure the equitable distribution of available medicines among all pharmacies and doctors’ dispensaries.
Pharmacies and dispensaries should have contingency plans to source supply where stock is unavailable from wholesalers.
And patients should be told to request prescriptions in good time. “This is particularly important for patients taking medicines with a significant clinical consequence to missing any doses (e.g. anti-psychotics, anti-epileptics, anti-cancer etc),” it said.