News

Media And Political Bulletin – 04 May 2020

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.

Media And Political Bulletin – 04 May 2020

From Factory to Pharmacy

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