Media and Political Bulletin – 18 May 2020

Media and Political Bulletin

18 May 2020

Government guidance published to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. The government, in consultation with industry, has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 8 guides, including on Factoriesplants and warehouses and on Vehicles.

Media Summary

There is no media coverage to report today.

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons – Written Answer, 15 May 2020

Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has to allocate additional funding to pharmacies during the covid-19 outbreak.

Jo Churchill: We understand the financial pressure of COVID-19 on community pharmacy which is why £300 million in extra advance payments have been made available to alleviate initial cash flow pressures. The Government has also provided additional funding to community pharmacy to cover costs associated with Bank Holiday opening at Easter and the Early May Bank Holiday and the new medicine delivery service commissioned for shielded patients, as well as making a contribution towards measures taken by community pharmacy to support social distancing.

We continue to work with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and NHS England and NHS Improvement to examine what further funding community pharmacy may require to continue to supply medicines and to help their communities stay well.

 

Full Coverage

 

There is no media coverage to report today.

Media and Political Bulletin

18 May 2020

Government guidance published to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. The government, in consultation with industry, has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 8 guides, including on Factoriesplants and warehouses and on Vehicles.

Media Summary

 

Salazopyrin out of stock until June 1

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Networks News, 13 May 2020

P3 Pharmacy reports that the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has informed community pharmacies that Salazopyrin 500mg suppositories are out of stock until the week beginning June 1.

The supply issues were caused by “an increase in demand seen by the sole supplier Pfizer” according to the negotiator. During this period, limited supplies of Salofalk 500mg suppositories will be available from Monday May 18. Additionally, they reported that Pentasa 1g suppositories remain available during this period.

33 more medicines added to export blacklist

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, MHRA, 13 May 2020

Dispensing Doctors’ Association reports that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have added 33 medicines to the list of medicines which must not be parallel exported from the UK.

The new restrictions cover specified pharmaceutical forms and strengths of medicines, including Ibuprofen. The list will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Programme to develop sustainable cold chain delivery for COVID-19 vaccine initiated

European Pharmaceutical Review, Victoria Rees, 12 May 2020

European Pharmaceutical Review reports that researchers and scientists are launching a new research project in India that will help to establish sustainable cold chain delivery systems for a COVID-19 vaccine in resource-poor countries.

Universal vaccine access is a major challenge, particularly in low-income countries – partly due to the lack of robust cold-chains. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization estimates that only 10 percent of health care facilities in the world’s poorest countries have a reliable electricity supply while in some countries less than 5 percent of health centres have vaccine-qualified refrigerators.

Parliamentary Coverage

 

House of Commons – Written Question, 13 May 2020

Matt Vickers (Stockton South): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of whether there has been a change in the price of medicines and drugs for the NHS and pharmacists since the start of the covid-19 outbreak.

 

Full Coverage

 

Salazopyrin out of stock until June 1

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Networks News, 13 May 2020

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has informed community pharmacies that Salazopyrin (sulfasalazine) 500mg suppositories are out of stock until the week beginning June 1.

The negotiator said supply issues affecting the medication, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, were caused by “an increase in demand seen by the sole supplier Pfizer.”

PSNC also reported that limited supplies of Salofalk (mesalazine) 500mg suppositories, used to treat inflammatory bowel disease including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, will be available from Monday May 18 and that Pentasa 1g suppositories remain available during this period.

33 more medicines added to export blacklist

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, MHRA, 13 May 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have added 33 medicines to the list of medicines which must not be parallel exported from the UK.

The new restrictions cover specified pharmaceutical forms and strengths of medicines including:

Atenolol

Azithromycin

Bisoprolol

Buprenorphine

Dexamethasone

Digoxin

Glycopyrronium bromide

Ibuprofen

Lisinopril

Metoprolol

Tiotropium

The list, will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis, to include any product that meets the following criteria:

  • the medicine is required to meet the needs of UK patients;
  • the medicine is either being parallel exported or is at threat of being parallel exported; and
  • the export of that medicine is either contributing to, or may contribute to, a shortage of that medicine in the UK.

Programme to develop sustainable cold chain delivery for COVID-19 vaccine initiated

European Pharmaceutical Review, Victoria Rees, 12 May 2020

Scientists are launching a new research project in India that will help to engineer an efficient and sustainable delivery mechanism for the distribution of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine to billions of people around the globe.

Supported by the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation in India, experts from the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University, both UK, are joining forces with non-profit, commercial and academic partners to begin investigating the scale of challenge involved in distributing a potentially temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the researchers, universal vaccine access is a major challenge, particularly in low-income countries – partly due to the lack of robust cold-chains. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization estimates that only 10 percent of health care facilities in the world’s poorest countries have a reliable electricity supply while in some countries less than 5 percent of health centres have vaccine-qualified refrigerators.

Toby Peters, Professor of Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, commented: “Universal vaccine access is already a major challenge. With COVID-19, rapid mass immunisation will probably be required; maintaining a continuous cold chain to rapidly transport and deliver COVID-19 vaccine to all communities, many where electricity supply and cooling infrastructure is often non-existent or unreliable, will be a daunting task. Given most of the technologies deployed today will still be in operation in the next decade, the emergence of sustainable and off-grid cold-chain devices allows us the opportunity to create sustainable solutions for COVID-19 vaccine deployment that also can deliver resilient and sustainable health cold-chain systems as a lasting legacy.”

Shubhashis Dey, Associate Director of Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, commented: “COVID-19 related mass immunisation requirements offer us an opportunity to not only increase our vaccine production, but also create a robust logistics cold chain system that can handle the country’s overall vaccine needs… Our effort is designed to help India overcome this massive logistic challenge sustainably and create a model of global adoption.”

Research in India will be led by the Centre for Environment Education and supported by commercial partners such as Zanotti (a part of the Daikin Group), Sure Chill and Nexleaf Analytics. This group will begin by researching a number of questions that will be key to solving the cold-chain conundrum, including which countries have the needed infrastructure, what the the financing requirements to establish an efficient vaccine delivery system and how this can be done sustainably.

Clean cold experts from the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University are working with Indian counterparts Centre for Environment Education and MP Ensystems to explore how integrated ‘Community Cooling Hubs’ can integrate food cold chains with other cold-dependent services such as community health facilities, social facilities and even emergency services.

Professor Phil Greening, from the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight at Heriot-Watt University, commented: “We may have 12-18 months to engineer a robust, efficient distribution system to ensure any vaccine for COVID-19 can reach the world’s population, whether they are in urban or remote rural areas. A radical approach like community cooling hubs could help meet the different communities’ cooling needs in a clean, affordable and sustainable way while helping to safeguard people’s health. There will be many knowns and unknowns in facing the coronavirus challenge, but a vaccine is one of the very few exit strategies around which scientists and government are aligned.”

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University believe that their work in this area will ultimately help to:

  • Develop a short- to medium-term crisis exit solution aimed to deliver COVID-19 vaccine in a safe, efficient and clean manner, while still maintaining routine vaccine deliveries
  • Create a long-term contingency framework through establishment of logistics specifically for medicine, blood, vaccines, that is cost-effective, sustainable and responsive to different levels of challenge – basic needs, natural disasters/ regional epidemics, national pandemics
  • Deliver lasting value by meeting current unmet and future vaccine demand.

Professor Peters added: “Ultimately, we need a global effort to prepare the vaccine and in parallel a global strategy to develop the appropriate sustainable and legacy equitable cold chains and achieve this with minimum environmental impact. Out-of-the-box thinking is needed if we are to define sustainable and inclusive solutions that can be delivered quickly and at scale to beat this pandemic and unlock connections between COVID-19 vaccine deployment, sustainable cold chain and development of clean energy infrastructure.”

 

Media and Political Bulletin

13 May 2020

Government guidance published to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. The government, in consultation with industry, has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 8 guides, including on Factoriesplants and warehouses and on Vehicles. 

Media Summary

 

MHRA shuts down more ‘bogus’ Covid sites

P3 Pharmacy, 12 May 2020

P3 Pharmacy reports that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned people against buying online medicines and health products that claim to cure and prevent Covid-19, and says it has shut down a total of 11 websites and social media accounts since the pandemic began.

The regulator is warning the public that products being marketed as ‘miracle cures’, ‘divine cleansing oils’ and ‘antiviral misting sprays’ are unlicensed and not authorised to be sold on the UK market.

The MHRA has launched a #FakeMeds campaign to ensure medical products bought online are purchased from legitimate sources and have encouraged people to report any suspect medicines or medical devices to its Yellow Card scheme.

Parliamentary Coverage

 

House of Commons – Written Answer, 12 May 2020

Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has for the future funding of community pharmacies.

Jo Churchill: In July 2019, we set out our landmark five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) deal to deliver an expanded role for community pharmacy. The deal commits £2.592 billion per year to community pharmacy from 2019-20 to 2023-24. This amounts to almost £13 billion across the five years.

We set out that we would reprioritise funding, moving to a more service based contractual framework. The Department and NHS England and NHS Improvement will continue to work with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee to develop and deliver this joint vision. A more detailed breakdown of the funding can be found in the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework at the following link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/819601/cpcf-2019-to-2024.pdf

 

Full Coverage

 

MHRA shuts down more ‘bogus’ Covid sites

P3 Pharmacy, 12 May 2020

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned people against buying online medicines and health products that claim to cure and prevent Covid-19, and says it has shut down a total of 11 websites and social media accounts since the pandemic began.

The MHRA said in early April it had shut down nine websites and social media accounts selling fake or unlicensed Covid-19 products. The Agency told Pharmacy Network News today it has “now removed a further two websites”.

“Working with our partners from law enforcement agencies we are closing media accounts, removing social media posts and suspending domain names,” it told PNN, adding that more investigations are currently underway.

The regulator is warning the public that products being marketed as ‘miracle cures’, ‘divine cleansing oils’ and ‘antiviral misting sprays’ are unlicensed and not authorised to be sold on the UK market.

The MHRA declined to say how prevalent the issue is, instead offering the following statement: “We are living in unprecedented times and people are understandably anxious which leads them to seek cures, preventions and diagnostics online. We are seeing a small number of products making such claims and will investigate where there is non-compliance with legal requirements.”

‘Safety cannot be guaranteed’

The MHRA has launched a #FakeMeds campaign to ensure medical products bought online are purchased from legitimate sources and have encouraged people to report any suspect medicines or medical devices to its Yellow Card scheme.

“You may have heard about products claiming to treat or cure covid-19. At this time there is no medicine licensed specifically to treat or prevent covid-19,” said Lynda Scammell, senior enforcement advisor at the MHRA.

“We want to caution people that products claiming to do so are not authorised and have not undergone regulatory approvals required for sale on the UK market. We cannot guarantee the safety or quality of these products and this poses a risk to your health.

“Don’t be fooled by online offers for medical products to help prevent or treat covid-19. One of the risks of buying medicines and medical devices from unregulated sources is that you just don’t know what you will receive.

“You could be risking your health, and this could further spread the virus and increase pressure on our NHS and social care systems.”

Media and Political Bulletin

13 May 2020

Government guidance published to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. The government, in consultation with industry, has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 8 guides, including on Factoriesplants and warehouses and on Vehicles. 

 

Media Summary

 

MHRA shuts down more ‘bogus’ Covid sites

P3 Pharmacy, 12 May 2020

P3 Pharmacy reports that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned people against buying online medicines and health products that claim to cure and prevent Covid-19, and says it has shut down a total of 11 websites and social media accounts since the pandemic began.

The regulator is warning the public that products being marketed as ‘miracle cures’, ‘divine cleansing oils’ and ‘antiviral misting sprays’ are unlicensed and not authorised to be sold on the UK market.

The MHRA has launched a #FakeMeds campaign to ensure medical products bought online are purchased from legitimate sources and have encouraged people to report any suspect medicines or medical devices to its Yellow Card scheme.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

 

House of Commons – Written Answer, 12 May 2020

Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has for the future funding of community pharmacies.

Jo Churchill: In July 2019, we set out our landmark five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) deal to deliver an expanded role for community pharmacy. The deal commits £2.592 billion per year to community pharmacy from 2019-20 to 2023-24. This amounts to almost £13 billion across the five years.

We set out that we would reprioritise funding, moving to a more service based contractual framework. The Department and NHS England and NHS Improvement will continue to work with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee to develop and deliver this joint vision. A more detailed breakdown of the funding can be found in the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework at the following link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/819601/cpcf-2019-to-2024.pdf

 

Full Coverage

MHRA shuts down more ‘bogus’ Covid sites

P3 Pharmacy, 12 May 2020

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned people against buying online medicines and health products that claim to cure and prevent Covid-19, and says it has shut down a total of 11 websites and social media accounts since the pandemic began.

The MHRA said in early April it had shut down nine websites and social media accounts selling fake or unlicensed Covid-19 products. The Agency told Pharmacy Network News today it has “now removed a further two websites”.

“Working with our partners from law enforcement agencies we are closing media accounts, removing social media posts and suspending domain names,” it told PNN, adding that more investigations are currently underway.

The regulator is warning the public that products being marketed as ‘miracle cures’, ‘divine cleansing oils’ and ‘antiviral misting sprays’ are unlicensed and not authorised to be sold on the UK market.

The MHRA declined to say how prevalent the issue is, instead offering the following statement: “We are living in unprecedented times and people are understandably anxious which leads them to seek cures, preventions and diagnostics online. We are seeing a small number of products making such claims and will investigate where there is non-compliance with legal requirements.”

‘Safety cannot be guaranteed’

The MHRA has launched a #FakeMeds campaign to ensure medical products bought online are purchased from legitimate sources and have encouraged people to report any suspect medicines or medical devices to its Yellow Card scheme.

“You may have heard about products claiming to treat or cure covid-19. At this time there is no medicine licensed specifically to treat or prevent covid-19,” said Lynda Scammell, senior enforcement advisor at the MHRA.

“We want to caution people that products claiming to do so are not authorised and have not undergone regulatory approvals required for sale on the UK market. We cannot guarantee the safety or quality of these products and this poses a risk to your health.

“Don’t be fooled by online offers for medical products to help prevent or treat covid-19. One of the risks of buying medicines and medical devices from unregulated sources is that you just don’t know what you will receive.

“You could be risking your health, and this could further spread the virus and increase pressure on our NHS and social care systems.”

Media and Political Bulletin

12 May 2020

Government guidance published to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. The government, in consultation with industry, has published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 8 guides, which cover a range of different types of work, notably:

  • Factories, plants and warehouses. Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.
  • Vehicles. Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.
  • Offices and contact centres. Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.
  • Shops and branches. Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

 

Media Summary

Ranitidine 50mg/2ml injection out of supply from May

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 11 May 2020

Dispensing Doctors’ Association reports that Ranitidine 50mg/2ml injection is anticipated to be unavailable from the end of May 2020 until further notice. This is due to on-going regulatory investigations into the presence of the contaminant, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).

At present, in Europe all suppliers of Ranitidine’s active ingredient have had their Certificate of Suitability (CEP) suspended. Therefore, until regulatory investigations are complete, no further supplies of ranitidine products can be manufactured.

View the supply disruption alert for clinical advice on alternatives of ranitidine preparations for adults and children.

Parliamentary Coverage

 

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

Ranitidine 50mg/2ml injection out of supply from May

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 11 May 2020

Ranitidine 50mg/2ml injection is anticipated to be unavailable from the end of May 2020 until further notice. Ranitidine film-coated tablets, effervescent tablets and oral solution continue to remain unavailable with no date for resupply. This is due to on-going regulatory investigations into the presence of the contaminant, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Clinical advice on alternatives of ranitidine preparations for adults and children has been shared in the previous supply disruption alert. View the alert.

Media and Political Bulletin

11 May 2020

Media Summary

Wholesaler body: Pharmacies not at risk of exceeding credit limit

Chemist+Druggist, Thomas Cox, 06 May 2020

In an exclusive podcast with Chemist+Druggist, Executive Director of the HDA Martin Sawer said that most pharmacies should not be at risk of being unable to dispense medicines after reaching their credit limit with wholesalers.

With some pharmacies having to buy so much medicine to meet demand that they have reached the credit limit on their wholesaler account, their ability to purchase drugs is potentially being imperilled.

But Sawer said that only a “small number” of pharmacies might have challenges with their credit limit with his members. “I have been told that there is a lot of flexibility being allowed on those caps. Wholesalers have put on extra customer service teams to try and deal with all those regular customers who have that issue,” he told C+D.

Shortage of intensive care drugs mean operations cannot be restarted, anesthetists warn

The Telegraph, Tom Morgan, 09 May 2020

The Telegraph reports that many hospitals believe they are “nowhere near” returning to operating at full capacity for non-emergency patients, because anaesthetic drugs remain low following the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We are aware there is an increase in demand for a number of intensive care drugs and we are working with the pharmaceutical industry to make additional supplies available. We are working closely with industry, the NHS and the relevant national expert groups to ensure precautions are in place to reduce the likelihood of shortages.”

Several theatres in the south west are understood to have been particularly short of muscle relaxants and propofol in recent weeks. However, a doctor said the situation was “rapidly changing” and NHS England sources said issues with anaesthetics were not being felt on a national scale.

Parliamentary Coverage

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced it is partnering with companies including Amazon, the Royal Mint, eBay and Jaguar Land Rover to increase supply of PPE to NHS and social care workers. This follows a call-to-action from the government for UK businesses to use their existing manufacturing power to meet demand.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has said some councils have recorded a 40% increase in reported scams since the start of the COVID-19 emergency, including the sale of fake coronavirus test kits and hand sanitisers, bogus medical products claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19 and false communications about how to claim school meals funding and government grants.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) Chief Executive Graham Russell said: We are committed to supporting legitimate businesses who are working hard to increase the supply of PPE to health and social care settings. But anyone setting out to supply unsafe PPE, with fake certification and false safety marks, needs to know we take a zero-tolerance approach.

We will use all necessary enforcement powers to make sure unsafe PPE does not enter the supply chain and will take action against importers who set out to flout important safety rules.

OPSS has seen a rise in intelligence relating to PPE products including sales of non-compliant or counterfeit face masks and hand sanitisers, being sold online, in shops and at markets.

300,000 items from the consignment have been cleared by OPSS personnel, actively protecting health workers against the pandemic. Unsafe PPE that cannot be re-worked or used safely in another setting will be quarantined or destroyed.

House of Commons Question, 07 May 2020

Alex Norris (Nottingham North): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the supply line to community pharmacies.

Jo Churchill: As part of our concerted national efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are doing everything we can to ensure patients continue to access safe and effective medicines.

The Department is working closely with the pharmaceutical industry, the National Health Service and others in the supply chain to help ensure patients can access the medicines they need, including through community pharmacies, and precautions are in place to reduce the likelihood of future shortages.

 

Full Coverage

 

Wholesaler body: Pharmacies not at risk of exceeding credit limit

Chemist+Druggist, Thomas Cox, 06 May 2020

Most pharmacies should not be at risk of being unable to dispense medicines after reaching their credit limit with wholesalers, according to the head of a wholesaler body.

The recent deluge of scripts, up to triple the usual volume, has pushed some pharmacies to breaking point during COVID-19. Some have had to buy so much medicine to meet demand that they have reached the credit limit on their wholesaler account, potentially imperilling their ability to purchase drugs.

But Martin Sawer, executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA), says that only a “small number” of pharmacies might have challenges with their credit limit with his members.

“I have been told that there is a lot of flexibility being allowed on those caps. Wholesalers have put on extra customer service teams to try and deal with all those regular customers who have that issue,” Mr Sawer told C+D last Friday (May 1).

“If there are any issues with with any of my members, then please do pass them on.” HDA members include AAH, Alliance Healthcare, Lexon and Phoenix.

Listen to the podcast to hear about:

  • Demand from community pharmacy for medicines returning to normal
  • How contractors can deal with medicines price hikes
  • The ups and downs wholesalers experienced during COVID-19, resulting in them being offered army support

Shortage of intensive care drugs mean operations cannot be restarted, anesthetists warn

The Telegraph, Tom Morgan, 09 May 2020

Many hospitals believe they are “nowhere near” returning to operating at full capacity for non-emergency patients because anaesthetic drugs remain low following the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.

A group of doctors, speaking to the Sunday Telegraph on condition of anonymity, added that some NHS Trusts were also weeks away from getting infection control measures right to ensure normal surgeries can resume.

Several theatres in the south west are understood to have been particularly short of muscle relaxants and propofol in recent weeks. Another doctor said the situation was “rapidly changing”, however.

The Telegraph first reported last month how propofol, a commonly used anaesthetic, and alfentanil, an opioid painkiller, had been running low due to the increased pressure on intensive care units.

“If anything the situation has got worse in our hospitals,” said one senior doctor. “We are nowhere near a return to full capacity, and many other hospitals in a similar situation.”

The Royal College of Anaesthetists has developed a joint strategy document  on “Restarting planned surgery in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic” in which it makes clear that planned surgery should not resume until  “sufficient anaesthetic and critical care drug stocks have been secured”.

Professor Ravi Mahajan, president of the college, said on May 1 that it “is clear that the NHS cannot simply resume planned surgery services before sufficient resources are in place”. “As well as adequate PPE and drugs supplies, staff capacity will be key in resuming planned surgery, and I am conscious that anaesthetists and all healthcare staff have been working incredibly hard throughout the pandemic,” he added.

Letters were sent out the same week by the Government to hospitals urging them to make preparations to return to regular treatment. The request comes amid warnings that more than 2,000 cancer diagnosis a week were being missed as a result of Covid-19.

At the peak of the crisis over the Easter weekend, figures from the NHS operational dashboard showed that 40.9 per cent of acute beds were unoccupied – about four times the normal number. In the same week of 2019, some 90 per cent of critical care beds were occupied.

Clinicians, meanwhile, are getting increasingly concerned at the potentially fatal consequences of the public being fearful of attending accident and emergency wards.

“Restarting normal activity is already a major challenge,” the group of doctors added. “In addition to anaesthetic shortages in theatre, everything has to be done in PPE, and the PPE stocks are critically low. So we’re not sure if we can start operating again at full capacity, or see patients in clinic at full capacity, because we don’t have the supply. People will die as a result of not coming in for their planned operations.”

On April 2, four leading royal colleges and health organisations asked staff to “act immediately” and use alternatives to some “first line” medications in new guidance on changes to specific anaesthetic drugs facing “pandemic pressures”. However, government sources said medicines shortages have been an issue for many years prior to the Covid crisis.

More than 100 medicines commonly used to treat patients have been banned from parallel export out of the UK to help uninterrupted supply of medicines to the NHS and patients.

“It is important to understand that there are alternative drugs available if those normally used by anaesthetists and intensivists for a specific procedure are in short supply,” the source added.

The increased demand has been anticipated and the Royal College of Anaesthetists, the Association of Anaesthetists, the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine and the Intensive Care Society, working closely with NHS England, were said to have “ensured that appropriate mitigating plans are being put in place”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “As part of our concerted national efforts to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, we are doing everything we can to ensure patients continue to access safe and effective medicines.

“We are aware there is an increase in demand for a number of intensive care drugs and we are working with the pharmaceutical industry to make additional supplies available.

“We are working closely with industry, the NHS and the relevant national expert groups to ensure precautions are in place to reduce the likelihood of shortages.”

NHS England sources said issues with anaesthetics were not being felt on a national scale.

Media and Political Bulletin

07 May 2020

Media Summary

 

GPhC warns seven online pharmacies over illegal COVID-19 tests

Chemist+Druggist, Eliza Slawther, 06 May 2020

Chemist+Druggist reports that the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has written to seven online pharmacies to request they remove illegal COVID-19 home testing kits from sale.

While it is legal for pharmacies to sell tests where samples are subsequently analysed in a laboratory, it is currently illegal to supply tests with rapid results for testing and diagnosing at home or in community pharmacies.

MHRA head of operations for enforcement Tariq Sarwar said the regulator was “committed to working together with law enforcement to protect public health and prevent unsafe medicines and medical devices getting to the public.”

EXCLUSIVE: Hancock pledges more support for pharmacy but rules out writing off £300m uplift

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 06 May 2020

Following the announcement of the £300 million “advance funding” to alleviate immediate pharmacy cashflow issues, Pharmacy Business reports that Matt Hancock has said he is “working with the pharmacy sector on how to make sure that pharmacies are sustainable in these really difficult times, and feel supported”.

Acknowledging the vital role of pharmacists in the pandemic whilst also pledging more support for the sector, Hancock noted that his enthusiasm for the sector led him to making it “a big part” of his priority as health secretary, adding: “We are going to put more and more support into pharmacy.”

Parliamentary Coverage

 

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

GPhC warns seven online pharmacies over illegal COVID-19 tests

Chemist+Druggist, Eliza Slawther, 06 May 2020

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has written to seven online pharmacies to request they remove illegal COVID-19 home testing kits from sale.

It is legal for pharmacies to sell tests where samples are subsequently analysed in a laboratory,

It is currently illegal to supply tests with rapid results for testing and diagnosing at home or in community pharmacies.

The GPhC told C+D last month (April 29) that it had written to the seven pharmacies to underline the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) guidance that it is “illegal to sell home test kits without a CE mark” . It also requested that the tests were removed from sale, it said.

“We expect pharmacy owners to comply with the law and consider relevant guidance from appropriate bodies such as the MHRA, Public Health England (PHE) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society,” the GPhC added.

“MHRA advice is that there are currently no CE-marked tests for home use, and it is illegal to supply such products,” it explained.

In March, PHE advised against the use of coronavirus tests in community pharmacies and at home, citing that there was “no published evidence” of their efficacy.

However, some pharmacies are selling home sampling kits, which involve collecting a sample at home that is then processed by an accredited laboratory. Such tests are legal if they have a CE mark.

Last month (April 15), the National Crime Agency (NCA) said it had arrested a pharmacist from Croydon on suspicion of illegally selling coronavirus testing kits.

In the same NCA statement, MHRA head of operations for enforcement Tariq Sarwar said the regulator was “committed to working together with law enforcement to protect public health and prevent unsafe medicines and medical devices getting to the public.”

EXCLUSIVE: Hancock pledges more support for pharmacy but rules out writing off £300m uplift

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 06 May 2020

Health secretary Matt Hancock has acknowledged the vital role of pharmacists in the pandemic whilst pledging more support for the sector.

“There is a vast proportion of people working in pharmacies from BAME backgrounds. Pharmacy would fall over without these communities,” Hancock told Eastern Eye’s executive editor Shailesh Solanki in an exclusive interview on Tuesday (May 5).

He added: “We are going to put more and more support into pharmacy.”

£300m cash advance

After a number of independent pharmacists complained that they were paying tens of thousands of pounds to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic, the government announced a £300 million “advance funding” to alleviate their immediate cashflow issues.

While the government announcement was categorical that the cash injection would be “reconciled at a later date,” just days later, the health secretary wrote off £13.4 billion in historical debts for the NHS to help it respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, raising renewed hopes for pharmacists fighting the conronavirus pandemic from the frontline.

Asked if this ‘advance’ could be written off and if he was looking at additional funding for community pharmacy, Hancock said: “Unfortunately, as tempting as it is, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wouldn’t be very pleased if I did that on this call.

“But it is something that I’m working with the pharmacy sector on – how to make sure that pharmacies are sustainable in these really difficult times, and feel supported.

“I get the fact that if people aren’t buying things from the store, which are normally cross subsidised, some of the services that you are giving as part of the pharmacy offer.

“I get the fact that that leads to an extra pressure on the bottom line. It is something that I’m talking to the trade associations about and that we are working on.

“I am very alive to this and I’m alive to the fact that community pharmacies are sometimes the only stores open in some communities. Especially where a GP or a walk-in centre isn’t open during the crisis.

Massive fan of pharmacy

“So, there is an even bigger role for community pharmacies than ever before. I am a massive fan of community pharmacy. There is so much more than they can offer and give everybody.

“They work to the absolute top of their qualifications and there is a bigger role beyond this crisis for community pharmacy.

“If anything, my instinct is to support pharmacies and community pharmacies have been really borne out and my determination to drive that forward has been redoubled and we’ve got to support pharmacy through so there is a strong pharmacy sector coming out of this, ready to serve the nation.”

Reiterating that pharmacy cutbacks did not “happen on my watch,” he noted that his enthusiasm for the sector led him into making it “a big part” of his priority as health secretary.

Media and Political Bulletin

06 May 2020

Media Summary

 

Wholesale depots closed this Bank Holiday Friday

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 05 May 2020

Dispensing Doctors’ Association reports that wholesalers have confirmed that depots will be closed this Friday (May 8), which has been designated the early May Bank Holiday.

HDA wholesalers will have in place the normal out-of-hours procedures and emergency deliveries for Friday. Normal deliveries will be made on Thursday 7 May and Saturday 9 May.

Each Bank Holiday will be reviewed during the current COVID-19 pandemic on a case-by-case basis.

MHRA launches website to report side effects of drugs and faulty devices used in Covid-19 treatment

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 05 May 2020

Pharmacy Business reports that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has launched a website dedicated to reporting adverse effects of medicines or medical devices while treating Covid-19 patients.

The regulator noted that any healthcare product used in the treatment of COVID-19 can be reported, including medical devices such as ventilators and respiratory support devices, testing kits, some protective personal equipment and medicines falsely claiming to cure a patient.

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said: “We appreciate that healthcare professionals are under pressure at this challenging time, but reporting remains essential both to understand the safety of existing medicines and medical devices used in treating COVID-19, and to identify new safety issues.”

 

Parliamentary Coverage

 

House of Commons – Oral Question, 04 May 2020

Naz Shah (Bradford West): For what reasons the UK did not join the EU joint procurement programme for personal protective equipment.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (Michael Gove): I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Owing to an initial communication problem, the UK did not receive the invitation in time to join the four EU joint procurements, including on PPE. We will, however, participate in the EU joint procurement scheme on therapeutics that is soon to launch, and we will consider participating in future schemes, including any on PPE, on the basis of public health requirements.

Naz Shah (Bradford West): The UK has left the EU, but the NHS Confederation and other top health officials have warned that failing to continue co-operation would be a disaster for public health. Does the failure of working together over PPE signal a new approach by the Government that puts ideology before the nation’s health?

Michael Gove: No.

House of Commons – Oral Question, 04 May 2020

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central): It was good to hear reports this morning that the Government are getting behind the EU-led international initiatives to find a coronavirus vaccine. Given this approach, can the Minister confirm reports that the Government are now seeking to retain participation in the EU’s early warning and response system for pandemics, as requested by the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Providers, and will they look again at participation in the European Medicines Agency?

Michael Gove: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. We will co-operate not just with our European neighbours, but with other countries in the fight against covid-19. He is right to say that the Prime Minister is joining the call today to ensure that we can support the effort to secure a vaccine. The effort to secure a vaccine is necessarily an international one. We will of course look pragmatically at how we can co-operate with our European friends and partners, but participation in the European Medicines Agency would involve, certainly at the moment, the acceptance of the European Court of Justice’s oversight, and that is not something the British people voted to do.

House of Commons – Written Question, 04 May 2020

Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent assessment he has made of the availability of generic drugs since the start of the covid-19 outbreak; and what assessment he has made of the effect of the outbreak on the supply of medicines.

Jo Churchill: As part of our concerted national efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are doing everything we can to ensure patients continue to access safe and effective medicines.

The Department is working closely with the pharmaceutical industry, the National Health Service and others in the supply chain to help ensure patients can access the medicines they need. and precautions are in place to reduce the likelihood of future shortages, including access to United Kingdom stockpiles of a range of generic medicines.

The Department shares regular information about impending supply issues and management plans with the NHS via networks in primary and secondary care and will liaise with relevant patient groups about issues affecting specific medicines.

 

Full Coverage

 

Wholesale depots closed this Bank Holiday Friday

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 05 May 2020

Wholesalers have confirmed that depots will be closed this Friday (May 8), which has been designated the early May Bank Holiday.

According to their trade body, HDA wholesalers will have in place the normal out-of-hours procedures and emergency deliveries for Friday. Normal deliveries will be made on Thursday 7 May and Saturday 9 May.

Each Bank Holiday will be reviewed during the current COVID-19 pandemic on a case-by-case basis.

Dispensing Doctors will have their delivery schedules communicated to them by their wholesaler.

MHRA launches website to report side effects of drugs and faulty devices used in Covid-19 treatment

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 05 May 2020

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has launched a website dedicated to reporting adverse effects of medicines or medical devices while treating Covid-19 patients.

According to the MHRA, reporting on the Yellow Card website will enable the regulator “to rapidly identify” new and emerging side effects of medicines on patients and “medical device issues which may not have been previously known about, including diagnostics tests for Covid 19.”

“This includes any medicines taken by patients to manage long-term, or pre-existing conditions that may influence the disease or have any potential interactions,” the MHRA added.

The regulator noted that any healthcare product used in the treatment of COVID-19 can be reported, including medical devices such as ventilators and respiratory support devices, testing kits, some protective personal equipment and medicines falsely claiming to cure a patient.

In a communication published on Tuesday (May 5), Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said: “We appreciate that healthcare professionals are under pressure at this challenging time, but reporting remains essential both to understand the safety of existing medicines and medical devices used in treating COVID-19, and to identify new safety issues.”

Media and Political Bulletin

05 May 2020

Media Summary

This Is The Government’s Draft Plan To Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Measures In The Workplace

Buzzfeed News, Alex Wickham, 04 May 2020

Buzzfeed News reports on the UK Government’s draft plan to ease the Coronavirus lockdown measures in the workplace.

BuzzFeed News has obtained all seven of the guidance documents drawn up by cabinet office minister Michael Gove and business secretary Alok Sharma, that will form the basis for the government’s proposals to get people back to work in the coming weeks.

The documents cover workers in seven different settings: hotel and restaurant staff; those who work in other people’s homes; factory workers; people working outdoors; people working in vehicles; shop workers; and office workers.

In all seven documents, under a heading on the potential provision of personal protection equipment and facemasks for workers, it says “guidance to follow”.

EXCLUSIVE: Pharmacists will struggle to repay £300m gov’t loan, Barry Gardiner tells Matt Hancock

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 04 May 2020

Pharmacy Business reports that Labour MP Barry Gardiner has asked the Health Secretary to “reappraise” the current support given to community pharmacists, saying that it will be “extremely difficult” for them to pay back the £300m advanced payment.

Gardiner estimated that over the course of the current national contract, pharmacists would have suffered a real-terms cut of nearly 30 per cent, with the smaller independent pharmacists being the hardest hit.

“I ask that you support local pharmacies going forward and reconsider the funding freeze you have imposed,” he wrote in his letter to Matt Hancock.

Parliamentary Coverage

 

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

 

This Is The Government’s Draft Plan To Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Measures In The Workplace

Buzzfeed News, Alex Wickham, 04 May 2020

Builders and shop workers will be encouraged to communicate via radio rather than face to face, employees will be told to work side by side or facing away from each other, and staff will be paired together if they work in close proximity, under draft UK government plans to ease the coronavirus lockdown.

BuzzFeed News has obtained all seven of the guidance documents drawn up by cabinet office minister Michael Gove and business secretary Alok Sharma, that will form the basis for the government’s proposals to get people back to work in the coming weeks.

The documents cover workers in seven different settings: hotel and restaurant staff; those who work in other people’s homes; factory workers; people working outdoors; people working in vehicles; shop workers; and office workers.

Businesses with more than five employees must produce a written risk assessment of working conditions for their staff if they wish to reopen during the pandemic. But even after the first relaxation of some lockdown measures, expected to be announced by Boris Johnson on Sunday, it will remain the case that those who can work from home must continue to do so.

Shielded “extremely vulnerable” people will be banned from any work that isn’t carried out at home. Businesses must help nonshielded “vulnerable” people work from home where possible, or take extra care enforcing social distancing around them in the workplace. Extremely vulnerable individuals are defined as those with specific medical conditions, such as various cancers.

In all seven documents, under a heading on the potential provision of personal protection equipment and facemasks for workers, it says “guidance to follow”.

“It will not always be possible to keep a distance of 2m. In these circumstances both employers and employees must do everything they reasonably can to reduce risk,” the government guidance states

General guidance for all workplaces

  • Staggering arrival/departure times to reduce crowding in and out
  • Providing additional parking or bike racks
  • Reducing congestion, for example by having more entry points to the workplace.
  • One for entering the building and one for exiting if possible
  • Handwashing or hand sanitation at entry and exit points
  • Alternatives to touch-based security devices such as keypads
  • Storage for staff clothes and bags
  • Staff to change into work uniforms on site using appropriate facilities/changing areas
  • Washing uniforms on site rather than at home
  • Discouraging nonessential trips within buildings and sites
  • Reducing job and location rotation, for example, assigning employees to specific floors
  • Introducing more one-way flow routes through buildings
  • Reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts, and encouraging use of stairs
  • Regulating use of corridors, lifts, and staircases
  • Reviewing layouts to allow staff to work further apart from each other
  • Using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help staff maintain 2 metres
  • Avoiding employees working face to face — working side by side or facing away from each other where possible
  • Using screens to create a physical barrier between people where appropriate
  • Staggering break times to reduce pressure on the break rooms, using outside areas for breaks
  • Using protective screening for staff in receptions or similar areas
  • Reconfiguring seating and tables to maintain spacing and reduce face-to-face interactions
  • Providing packaged meals or similar to avoid opening staff canteens

Hotels and restaurants

  • Bar areas must be closed
  • Seated restaurants and cafés must be closed
  • All food and drink outlets to serve takeaways only
  • Allowing access to as few people as possible into kitchens
  • Minimising interaction between kitchen workers and other workers
  • Putting teams into shifts to restrict the number of employees interacting
  • Spacing workstations 2 metres apart as much as possible
  • Minimising access to walk-in pantries, fridges, and freezers, with likely only one person being able to access these areas at one point in time
  • Minimising contact at “handover” points with other staff, such as when presenting food to serving staff and delivery drivers
  • Hand sanitiser for visitors
  • Avoid crowded reception areas, staggering check-in and check-out times
  • Carrying out contractor services at night
  • Considering room occupancy levels to maintain social distancing, especially in dormitories
  • Minimising contact between kitchen and food preparation workers and delivery drivers
  • Using front of house staff to serve customers in walk-in takeaways, with tills 2 metres away from the kitchen and ideally separated by a wall or partition
  • Creating a physical barrier between front of house workers and customers
  • Using contactless card payments
  • Limiting access to premises for people waiting for takeaways. Asking customers to wait in their cars
  • Asking customers to order online, on apps or over the telephone

Workers in other people’s homes

  • Discussing with households ahead of a visit to ask that a 2-metre distance is kept
  • Asking that households leave all internal doors open
  • Identifying busy areas across the household where people travel to, from or through, for example, stairs and corridors
  • Limiting the time spent in close proximity to no more than 15 minutes
  • Bringing your own food and drink to households
  • Limiting the number of workers within a confined space
  • Using a consistent pairing system if people have to work in close proximity
  • Allocating the same workers to a household where jobs are repetitive
  • Where multiple workers are in a home, creating fixed teams of workers who carry out their duties in those teams
  • Identifying areas where people need to hand things to each other and find ways to remove direct contact
  • Allocating the same worker to the same household each time there is a visit, e.g. cleaners
  • Using electronic payment methods and electronically signed and exchanged documents.

Factories and warehouses

  • Ask for who it is essential to be on site — office staff should stay home
  • Planning for the minimum number of people needed on site
  • Providing equipment for employees to work from home safely and effectively — for example, laptops
  • Servicing and adjusting ventilation systems
  • Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces
  • Clearing workspaces and removing waste at the end of a shift
  • Cleaning procedures for equipment, tools, and vehicles after each shift and after each use of shared equipment — for example, pallet trucks and forklift trucks
  • Hand sanitiser for employees to use boarding vehicles or handling deliveries
  • Regular cleaning of reusable delivery boxes

Shops and branches

  • Defining the number of customers that can follow 2-metre social distancing within the store
  • Taking into account total floor space as well as likely pinch points and busy areas
  • Limiting the number of customers at any one time
  • Suspending or reducing some customer services
  • Encouraging customers to shop alone
  • Informing customers who are accompanied by children that they are responsible for supervising them at all times
  • Using outside premises for queuing
  • Communicating with nearby premises to manage shared queueing areas
  • Shopping centres should take responsibility for regulating the number of customers in the centre
  • Continuing to keep customer restaurants and/or cafés closed until further notice, unless offering hot or cold food to be consumed off the premises
  • Providing clear guidance to people on arrival
  • Creating social distancing “champions” to demonstrate social distancing guidelines to customers
  • Staggered collection times for customers collecting items
  • Setting up no-contact return procedures
  • Cashless refunds
  • Keeping returns separate from displayed merchandise

Offices

  • Office staff should work from home if at all possible.
  • Employees in roles critical for business can go in
  • Employees who cannot work from home due to home circumstances can go in
  • Planning for the minimum number of people needed on site
  • Monitoring the wellbeing of employees who are working from home
  • Keeping in touch with off-site employees including welfare, mental and physical health and personal security
  • Review layouts, line setups, or processes to let employees work further apart
  • Arranging for employees to work side-by-side or facing away from each other
  • Screens to create a physical barrier between people
  • Floor tape or paint to mark areas to help employees keep to a 2-metre distance
  • Avoiding use of hot desks and spaces
  • Limiting use of high-touch items and shared office equipment
  • Using remote working tools, to avoid in-person meetings
  • Avoiding transmission during meetings, avoiding sharing pens
  • Only necessary participants should attend meetings
  • Hand sanitiser in meeting rooms
  • Holding meetings in well-ventilated rooms
  • Limiting or restricting occupancy in group interaction spaces
  • For areas where regular meetings take place, using floor signage to help people maintain social distancing

Working outdoors

  • Only workers deemed necessary to carry out physical work or supervision should physically attend
  • Changing layouts to let workers work further apart
  • Using screens to separate people from each other
  • Using a consistent pairing system if people have to work in close proximity
  • Avoiding employees working face to face — for example, by working side by side or facing away from each other

Working in a vehicle

  • Reducing the number of employees at base depots or distribution centres at a given time
  • Scheduling times for the collection of goods
  • Loading onto vehicles without interacting with driver
  • Reducing job/location rotation
  • Finding alternative solutions to two-person delivery
  • Minimising the contact during payments and exchange of documentation
  • Single person/contactless refuelling where possible
  • Physical screening if safe
  • Using a fixed pairing system if people have to work in close proximity
  • Making sure vehicles are well ventilated
  • Ensure regular cleaning of vehicles
  • Using no-contact deliveries wherever possible
  • Scheduling to limit exposure to large crowds and rush hours
  • Revising pick-up and drop-off collection points
  • No-contact deliveries where the nature of the product allows
  • Maximising use of electronic paperwork

EXCLUSIVE: Pharmacists will struggle to repay £300m gov’t loan, Barry Gardiner tells Matt Hancock

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 04 May 2020

Labour MP Barry Gardiner has asked the Health Secretary to “reappraise” the current support given to community pharmacists, saying that it will be “extremely difficult” for them to pay back the £300m advanced payment.

In a letter on Sunday (May 3), Gardiner asked Matt Hancock to “reconsider the funding freeze,” referring to the current fixed funding in the national contract for community pharmacy.

Independent pharmacy needs support

Gardiner estimated that over the course of the current contract, pharmacists would have suffered a real-terms cut of nearly 30 per cent, with the smaller independent pharmacists being the hardest hit.

“Pharmacists tell me that they are deeply concerned,” he wrote, noting that “they should not be worrying about cashflow” at a time when they were facing increasing volumes of prescription and patient demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“But as their costs increase, they are faced with trimming staff hours, postponing necessary training or restricting certain free services. I ask that you support local pharmacies going forward and reconsider the funding freeze you have imposed,” he added.

Pharmacists will struggle to pay back Gov’t loan

Gardiner is also concerned that the £300m advanced payment will be clawed back next year. Noting that due to large increases in wholesale bills, contractors were paying a lot more for some of the drugs they dispense than the NHS reimburses, he said  it was “extremely difficult” to see how any local independent pharmacy “might be able to pay back such a loan.”

The Labour MP lamented that pharmacists had to source their own personal protection equipment (PPE) because the government and Public Health England had been “painfully slow in offering any help or guidance.”

“Even today, PPE, when it is available, still has to be paid for by the pharmacies themselves,” he added.

Gardiner continued: “Everyday pharmacists and their dedicated teams face the public. They cannot know who they are serving, nor whether they are carrying the virus. But they continue to serve in the frontline with courage and steadfast attention to duty.”

He noted that he was “relieved” when Hancock clarified that death-in-service payment of £60,000 would now include families of pharmacists.

The Labour MP, however, regretted that despite desperately needing government help and support, many pharmacists were unable to make use of the Covid-19 cash grants and rate reliefs because they didn’t not qualify.

He would like the government to address the anomaly, he wrote.

Media and Political Bulletin

04 May 2020

Media Summary

Contraceptive pills are listed on eBay by unregulated sellers as women struggle to access family planning services in lockdown but experts warn drugs could be fake and potentially ‘toxic’

Daily Mail, Emily Webber, 04 May 2020

The Daily Mail reports that contraceptive pills are being listed on eBay as women struggle to access family planning services during lockdown

Tracey Forsyth, the lead contraceptive nurse at British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said that women are “struggling to access contraception”, but that “medication purchased on sites like eBay might be fake [..] and could be unsafe.”

“Family planning clinics have closed or reduced hours, staff have been redeployed to the Covid-19 frontline, and as a result women cannot get appointments,” she explained.

Dr Diana Gall, online pharmacy Doctors4U, added that “counterfeit drugs carry the risk of containing toxic chemicals, and may not contain any of the active ingredients needed for the drug to be effective, and this poses serious threats to your health.”

SPECIAL REPORT: Pharma firms ensure continuity of medicines supply to pharmacy during pandemic

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 01 May 2020

Pharmacy Business reports that there are real concerns about the continued supply of medicines, with some countries having banned exports of vital drugs to protect their own interest, and the pandemic highlighting the interdependencies within the global pharma market.

If the virus refuses to burn out and the pandemic continues, stockpiles of medicines, APIs and other vital chemicals are bound to decrease – resulting in severe shortages. In an interview with The Financial Times on April 20, the EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that Brussels would use its pharmaceuticals strategy to tackle supply chain problems revealed by the crisis, notably the bloc’s reliance on China and India for imports of crucial intensive care drugs.

In the UK though, the ABPI has said that there are “robust procedures in place” to manage the supply of medicines and companies are taking “all possible measures” to secure supply of medicines in line with government guidance. But while medicine shortages in the UK have so far been limited, the PSNC is concerned that shortages are becoming increasingly frequent.

Paracetamol and hand sanitiser top price complaints

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Network News, 01 May 2020

P3 Pharmacy reports that paracetamol and hand sanitiser have shown the highest price increases among products cited in 430 complaints of unfair pricing raised with the Competition and Marketing Authority since 3 April.

The CMA’s Covid-19 Taskforce, set up to monitor competition and consumer problems arising from coronavirus, received almost 21,000 complaints between 10 March and 19 April. While the average price increase across all reports is 130 per cent, the largest price increase is for hand sanitiser, with a reported rise in price of 367 per cent, followed by paracetamol at around 230 per cent.

The CMA says the vast majority of businesses are behaving responsibly and fairly in the unprecedented circumstances created by the coronavirus outbreak. However, on 20 March the CMA wrote an open letter to the pharmaceutical sector saying it had received reports that a minority of firms were seeking to capitalise on the situation by charging unjustifiably high prices for essential goods or making misleading claims around their efficacy.

Please click here to view the HDA Statement regarding the availability of Public Health England-supplied PPE for community pharmacy.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

 

House of Commons – Written Question, 01 May 2020

Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has for the future funding of community pharmacies

 

Full Coverage

Contraceptive pills are listed on eBay by unregulated sellers as women struggle to access family planning services in lockdown but experts warn drugs could be fake and potentially ‘toxic’

Daily Mail, Emily Webber, 04 May 2020

Contraceptive pills are being listed on eBay as women struggle to access family planning services during lockdown – but experts warn buying medication from the online site could lead to unwanted pregnancies.

Sellers across Europe are advertising various brands of the birth control pill, emergency contraception and even an IUD – also known as the coil – which requires insertion by a specially trained doctor or nurse.

One anonymous seller from Manchester has listed the combined oral contraceptive pill Femodene for £22, while another from London listed a non-hormonal copper coil at £28.98.

Tracey Forsyth, the lead contraceptive nurse at British Pregnancy Advisory Service, told FEMAIL that women are ‘struggling to access contraception’ but urged them to only purchase contraception ‘via regulated services’.

‘Family planning clinics have closed or reduced hours, staff have been redeployed to the Covid-19 frontline, and as a result women cannot get appointments,’ she explained.

‘Medication purchased on sites like eBay might be fake, may offer no protection against unplanned pregnancy, and could be unsafe.

‘If women are struggling to get their usual method through their usual route, they should seek help from online pharmacies.’

Dr Diana Gall, online pharmacy Doctors4U, added that buying contraception from unknown sources can cause adverse side effects and increase the risks of unwanted pregnancies.

The consultant said: ‘The biggest danger of buying contraception or any medicines on websites such as eBay is that you simply don’t know where it has come from.

‘If you don’t know where the drug has come from then there is no guarantee that the medicine is regulated or has gone through the same strict trials, or quality and safety checks as it would from a regulated, medical provider.

‘Counterfeit drugs carry the risk of containing toxic chemicals, and may not contain any of the active ingredients needed for the drug to be effective, and this poses serious threats to your health.’

Dr Gall advised that a routine check-up should be completed every three to six months when a patient is using contraception such as the combined pill or mini pill.

She also stressed how medicated contraception can cause adverse side effects even from a regulated source and people should be questioned about their health.

‘Medicines sold on eBay may not be prescribed by medical professionals and may not have the facility to check whether this medication is suitable for the buyer, or if they have had the necessary check-ups such as blood pressure monitoring,’ Dr Gall added.

‘Even if the contraception is from a regulated source, you should always be asked questions regarding your health and any other medications you may be taking before purchasing medicines online. This is something that may not be strictly enforced on these types of private seller websites.’

‘If you rely on counterfeit contraceptive medicines without using barrier methods of protection such as condoms, you’re not only risking your health, but you’re also risking an unwanted pregnancy as the contraception is not likely to be effective.

‘There is an increased risk of unwanted pregnancies when buying contraception from eBay. Likewise, condoms bought on eBay that aren’t from a regulated seller run the risk of being ineffective if they don’t meet standards of quality.

‘Any website offering prescription medication must be listed on the governments medicines sellers register and the website must display the logo clearly. If a website isn’t listed on this site then the chances are it’s not a legitimate website.’

An eBay seller from Bulgaria is advertising a special offer on the contraception Pharmatex, which is a locally applied medication that destroys sperm inside the vagina.

And it seems the promotions have seen a spike in sales, with the stockist selling 14 packets of Pharmatex – making £122.70 since lockdown began on March 23.

Despite sellers warning people to ‘consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking Pharmatex pessaries’, many are offering a discount on the original prices to entice shoppers to purchase multiple.

It comes after a study by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV since the coronavirus outbreak found that 86 per cent of clinics could not offer long-acting reversible contraception options such as the coil or implant.

Speaking about access to the contraceptive pill, Ms Forsyth said: ‘While GPs are supplying prescriptions, there is a long wait for telephone appointments which can mean that there is a gap during which they are not protected against unplanned pregnancy.’

She added that GPs are advising women to seek advice from contraception and sexual health (CASH) clinics, but admitted the coronavirus pandemic is an ‘incredibly difficult’ time for women.

‘Emergency contraception is an important back-up method, but women with symptoms or who need to isolate during the pandemic cannot get to the pharmacy while observing government guidance on social distancing,’ she said.

‘Many women choose long-acting methods because, once fitted, they don’t need to remember to take a daily pill which can be a struggle at the best of times, let alone during these uncertain and worrying times.’

The leading contraceptive nurse added how online pharmacies ‘provide an excellent service’ enabling women to order a six-month supply of the contraceptive pill direct to their front door.

She said: ‘This is an important alternative to access via GPs and family planning clinics because it enables women to stay at home.

‘We know many women are worried about going to clinics and pharmacies in case they contract Covid-19 and spread the virus to their children and loved ones.

SPECIAL REPORT: Pharma firms ensure continuity of medicines supply to pharmacy during pandemic

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 01 May 2020

The world is heavily reliant on China for personal protective equipment, India for generic drugs and a host of other countries for critical parts to make reliable ventilators. There are real concerns about the continued supply of medicines because some countries have banned exports of vital drugs to protect their own interest.

India, the largest exporter of generic drugs, for instance, had temporarily banned the export of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HQC), amid media reports of a spike in global demand for HQC and another similar drug, chloroquine – despite a lack of solid scientific evidence that both the drugs actually work against the virus.

The pandemic has also highlighted the interdependencies within the global pharma market. If the virus refuses to burn out and the pandemic continues, stockpiles of medicines, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and other vital chemicals are bound to decrease – resulting in severe shortages.

Fast-tracking delivery

Pharmacy Business contacted five pharmaceutical companies in the UK to get a sense of how prepared they were in the face of potential drugs shortages.

Accord Healthcare said it was “speeding up delivery” of its medicines and raw chemicals from around the world to its manufacturing sites in the UK to ensure continuity of supply.

The company is one of the UK’s largest generic manufacturers and suppliers of critical medicines. Accord said it was “able to provide a secure supply chain of vital medicines” such as paracetamol and HCQ, as well as ICU medicines for ventilators (midazolam and cisatracurium) and anti-retroviral medicines like ritonavir and lopinavir, which are in high demand.

“Accord’s size, breadth and reach means that it has been able to swiftly speed up delivery of its medicines and raw chemicals from around the world to its manufacturing sites in the UK, where it has adapted its machinery and production lines to produce the range of vital medicines now being used by the UK healthcare professionals to fight Covid-19 and ensure continuity of supply,” the company said.

Teva-UK, meanwhile, has “mobilised to keep medicines moving to our customers and from there to patients.”

“We’ve been working to make sure we monitor and optimise our supply chain, in the midst of very difficult conditions,” it told Pharmacy Business.

Torrent Pharma said it was focussing its “efforts not only on the here and now situation but that of the forthcoming months where the supply disruption will most likely be seen; given the restrictions in our manufacturing countries

and transport networks.”

Sandoz, a division of pharma giant Novartis, said it wasn’t anticipating any “disruption at this time.”

“With our priorities being the supply of our medicines to NHS patients and the health and safety of our associates, we will continue to ensure supply of our medicines to patients in the UK.

“Sandoz supplies over 10 million packs per month, treating 450,000 patients. We are being flexible with our current supply, working closely with retailers and wholesalers.”

“We are making special provision for supplying some specific critical medicines which would be made immediately available for ITU usage and are working closely with the DHSC regarding the current and medium-term supply of these medicines to ITUs.

Zentiva is “doing everything in our power” to help patients beat the disease. The pan European pharmaceutical company said it was “working on a number of projects in Europe, and beyond, to ensure medicines’ supply.

“We have managed to quickly turn on UK supply of some critical products at our European-based manufacturing sites and our teams have embraced around the clock shift-working patterns to accommodate these changes.

The company added that “within just weeks” it had developed a hand sanitiser and was planning for a production for the UK market.

In Europe, around 90 per cent of APIs for generic medicines are sourced from India and China – which is a matter of deep concern for those tasked with making health policies.

In an interview with The Financial Times on April 20, the EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that Brussels would use its pharmaceuticals strategy to tackle supply chain problems revealed by the crisis, notably the bloc’s reliance on China and India for imports of crucial intensive care drugs, including narcotic pain relievers, muscle relaxant ingredients and some older anaesthetics.

In the UK though, the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry has said that there are “robust procedures in place” to manage the supply of medicines and companies are taking “all possible measures” to secure supply of medicines in line with government guidance.

While medicine shortages in the UK have so far been limited, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee is concerned that shortages are becoming increasingly frequent.

Help for community pharmacy

When asked what the company was doing to help their community pharmacy customers, Torrent Pharma said: “We have been working hard to ensure ongoing supplies of our medicines to meet demand.”

It added the company has been working collaboratively “alongside our customers and with our industry body, the BGMA, to communicate and understand the major difficulties being faced by all parties.”

Zentiva said: “We have seen an increase in orders over the last few weeks, which has put pressure on our supply chain, but we are doing all we can to meet this demand. Consequently, we have implemented revised working patterns across our warehouses to ensure we get products, as swiftly as possible, to our customers and their patients.”

Teva-UK noted: “We’ve done some specific things, such as bringing forward rebate payments and supplying pharmacy support packages and resources – as well as continuing to work hard to maintain a stable supply of medicines for them.

“We’re always thinking about ways we can to make the lives of pharmacists easier, and any additional support we can provide.”

Accord said: “We are working closely with all elements of the supply chain, including pharmacists and wholesalers, and are actively exploring all solutions within our ability to help ensure the continued supply of high-quality, cost-effective medicines to patients.”

The company added that it was working closely with community pharmacists to consolidate the supply chain.

“We are in regular dialogue with our wholesaler partners and independent pharmacies to ensure that we are responding rapidly to their requests, and we have re-focused our sales teams on supporting pharmacists to locate much needed supplies.”

For its part, Sandoz said that it was “committed to keeping prices stable for a basket of essential medicines that may help in the treatment of coronavirus cases, specifically antivirals to reduce the impact of coronavirus and antibiotics to combat pneumonia.

“We are evaluating our existing products some of which have been rapidly progressed into clinical trials as candidates for the potential treatment of Covid-19.”

Paracetamol and hand sanitiser top price complaints

P3 Pharmacy, 01 May 2020

Paracetamol and hand sanitiser have shown the highest price increases among products cited in 430 complaints of unfair pricing raised with the Competition and Marketing Authority since 3 April.

While the average price increase across all reports is 130 per cent, the largest price increase is for hand sanitiser, with a reported rise in price of 367 per cent, followed by paracetamol at around 230 per cent.

The CMA’s Covid-19 Taskforce, set up to monitor competition and consumer problems arising from coronavirus received almost 21,000 complaints between 10 March and 19 April.

The profile of price increase complaints remained relatively stable over the period. Complaints about medication hovered around 4-8 per cent of the total, with the exception of a peak on 9 April which reflected a spike in complaints about paracetamol and ibuprofen.

The CMA says the vast majority of businesses are behaving responsibly and fairly in the unprecedented circumstances created by the coronavirus outbreak. However, on 20 March the CMA wrote an open letter to the pharmaceutical sector saying it had received reports that a minority of firms were seeking to capitalise on the situation by charging unjustifiably high prices for essential goods or making misleading claims around their efficacy.

As of 19 April, it had written to 187 individual businesses expressing concern about unjustifiable price rises. Together, these businesses accounted for over 2,500 complaints – one in eight of all complaints.

The General Pharmaceutical Council reported a “significant rise” in Fitness to Practise concerns in papers released ahead of its council meeting on April 23, citing profiteering concerns as a main contributor.

Over 100 more FtP concerns were raised in March than would usually be seen in this period. “Many related to concerns about pricing and profiteering,” the GPhC said, though it added that it was “unlikely” the rise in complaints against registrants would lead to a rise in FtP hearings.

Concerns around pricing are generally considered to fall outside the regulator’s remit.

From Factory to Pharmacy

As part of our mission to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the healthcare distribution sector, we developed an infographic explaining the availability of medicines. It identifies the factors that can impact drug supply, as well as the measures that HDA members undertake day in, day out to help mitigate the risks of patients not receiving their medicines.

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