News

Media And Political Bulletin – 11 March 2020

Media and Political Bulletin

11 March 2020

Media Summary

Coronavirus: no need to stockpile medicines

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 11 March 2020

Dispensing Doctors’ Association reports that pharmacies and GPs have been asked to discourage medicines stockpiling related to coronavirus concerns.

Guidance and resources for primary care professionals are available from Public Health England. These state that stockpiling can put a strain on the supply chain and exacerbate any potential shortages.

Other guidance states that practices and the wider healthcare community should work collaboratively with pharmacies to ensure business continuity.

EMA to consider coronavirus’ impact on EU medicines supply

PMLiVE, Lucy Parsons, 10 March 2020

PMLiVE reports that the EMA has organised the first meeting of an executive steering group, which will address the potential impact of the novel coronavirus on the medicine supply chain in the EU.

The executive group provides strategic leadership for urgent and coordinated actions within the EU to determine and address risks impacting the supply of medicinal products, in response to crises caused by major events like the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, the group is to identify specific EU-wide actions to protect patients from medicine shortage risks caused by actions taken to contain the spread of the virus. That could include shortages caused by temporary lockdowns of manufacturing sites in areas affected by COVID-19, or travel restrictions impacting shipment.

The group will also keep patients and healthcare professionals updated with regards to any risks to specific medicine shortages, and the remedial actions that may be taken as a result.

The EMA has also highlighted the important responsibility of pharma companies to ensure the continuity of medicines supply, including putting resilience measures in place such as increasing stock or dual sourcing of products and materials.

Coronavirus: PHE working with wholesalers to replenish stocks

C+D, Eliza Slawther, 10 March 2020

C+D reports that England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge has said Public Health England (PHE) is “working with wholesalers” to replenish stocks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Ridge wrote a letter to community pharmacies in which he recognised the “new and increasing challenge” that coronavirus poses for “already busy pharmacies”.

The four-page letter also highlights the need to prevent patients from stockpiling medicines and the importance of pharmacies putting business continuity plans in place.

The letter reiterated that pharmacies should not encourage patient to stockpile medicines, which could “impact adversely on the supply chain and result in shortages”.

Paracetamol hit by coronavirus price hikes

P3 Pharmacy, 10 March 2020

P3 Pharmacy reports that community pharmacy contractors are reporting that wholesaler prices for paracetamol and other medicines have risen substantially in recent weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, one contractor told Pharmacy Network News that prices for packs of 100 paracetamol tablets that were normally available for around 46p had risen to more than £2 with some wholesalers.

Paracetamol was one of the 26 active ingredients included on an export ban list published by the Indian government on March 3. This, combined with a slowdown in output from China due to the COVID-19 emergency, has contributed to significant price hikes on a number of drugs, contractors have said.

The Competition and Markets Authority said last week it was “monitoring reports of changes to sales and pricing practices” during the coronavirus outbreak, and the PSNC told Pharmacy Network News it was “keeping a close eye on the generics (including paracetamol) affected by recent price hikes”.

Depakote shortage

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 10 March 2020

Dispensing Doctors’ Association reports that Depakote 250mg and 500mg tablets are out of stock until early April 2020. Alternatives include:

  • Parallel import companies
  • Syonell tablets
  • Belvo tablets

Clinicians are advised to prescribe generically. See the shortage notice for more information.

Ex-Ministry of Sound MD appointed health minister

HSJ, Dave West, 10 March 2020

HSJ reports that the government has appointed a health minister in the Lords, who will lead on innovation and life sciences. Lord Bethell was yesterday confirmed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, following last month’s resignation of Baroness Blackwood.

The hereditary peer has been a government whip in the Lords since last year, having previously worked as a businessman and as a political adviser, in public relations, as well as working as a reporter.

 

 

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

Coronavirus: no need to stockpile medicines

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 11 March 2020

Pharmacies and GPs have been asked to discourage medicines stockpiling related to coronavirus concerns.

Guidance and resources for primary care professionals are available from Public Health England. These state that stockpiling can put a strain on the supply chain and exacerbate any potential shortages.

Other guidance clarifies:

  • Patients on repeat prescriptions should continue with their usual current repeat prescription durations, i.e., a month’s supply.
  • Professionals may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for patients and people using health and social care services. Key principles which should be followed, include the need to work cooperatively with colleagues to keep people safe, to practise in line with the best available evidence, to recognise and work within the limits of their competence, and to have appropriate indemnity arrangements relevant to their practice.
  • Practices, and the wider healthcare community should work collaboratively with pharmacies to ensure business continuity.

EMA to consider coronavirus’ impact on EU medicines supply

PMLiVE, Lucy Parsons, 10 March 2020

The European Medicine Agency (EMA) has organised the first meeting of an executive steering group, which will address the potential impact of the novel coronavirus on the medicine supply chain in the European Union.

In a statement issued this morning, the EMA said that it is already working with partners in the European medicines regulatory network to monitor the impact of the novel coronavirus – which causes the respiratory illness known as COVID-19 – on pharmaceutical supply chains in the EU.

The executive group provides strategic leadership for urgent and coordinated actions within the EU to determine and address risks impacting the supply of medicinal products, in response to crises caused by major events like the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, the group is to identify specific EU-wide actions to protect patients from medicine shortage risks caused by actions taken to contain the spread of the virus.

That could include shortages caused by temporary lockdowns of manufacturing sites in areas affected by COVID-19, or travel restrictions impacting shipment.

The group will also keep patients and healthcare professionals updated with regards to any risks to specific medicine shortages, and the remedial actions that may be taken as a result.

The EMA has also highlighted the important responsibility of pharma companies to ensure the continuity of medicines supply, including putting resilience measures in place such as increasing stock or dual sourcing of products and materials.

The US Food and Drug Administration has also said it is monitoring the possible risks to medicine supply chain risks caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and has identified a list of drugs which source their active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) or finished products from China.

China – the worst affected country and epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak – is a major manufacturer of a number of APIs used in a number of common drugs, especially in the US pharma market.

According to Reuters, around 88% of APIs used in drugs for the US market were manufactured overseas in 2018, with around 14% in that year produced in China.

The European concern over potential drug shortages comes amid a sharp rise of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy, which today began a nationwide ‘lockdown’ after case numbers surpassed 9,000.

Although cases seem to be rising in a number of countries, new infections in China and South Korea appear to be slowing down.

AbbVie’s Kaletra/Aluvia – potential coronavirus treatment?

The growing number of cases in Europe has once again highlighted the need for effective treatments for the COVID-19 infection.

Researchers have been testing a number of existing and pipeline products to determine if they are effective against the virus, with one of those identified as potentially having a positive effect being AbbVie’s HIV treatment Kaletra/Aluvia (lopinavir/ritonavir).

However, although the company supports the experimental use of the HIV medicine as a treatment for COVID-19, AbbVie has said it cannot confirm media reports coming out of China that it is an effective treatment against the virus.

Although AbbVie has donated Aluvia to the Chinese government for experimental use, it said in statement that while it is “working with global health authorities to ensure we meet the need of COVID-19 patients (and) conduct the appropriate clinical trials”, it will also need to “ensure uninterrupted supply of the drug Kaletra/Aluvia for HIV patients around the world”.

Coronavirus: PHE working with wholesalers to replenish stocks

C+D, Eliza Slawther, 10 March 2020

Public Health England (PHE) is “working with wholesalers” to replenish stocks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge has said.

Mr Ridge wrote a letter to community pharmacies yesterday (March 9), in which he recognised the “new and increasing challenge” that coronavirus poses for “already busy pharmacies”.

Gloves, aprons and fluid-repellent masks should be ordered from wholesalers for use by pharmacy teams but not sold to the public, Mr Ridge stressed.

PHE is collaborating with wholesalers to “ensure their stocks are replenished”, he said.

Mr Ridge added that packs containing gloves, aprons and fluid-repellent face masks will be “delivered to general practices early this week”. A “similar pack” will be sent out to pharmacies “later this week and early next week”.

“Strictly enforced arrangements for further replenishment will be in place,” Mr Ridge said, commenting that these would be “communicated to [pharmacies] shortly.”

The four-page letter also highlights the cancellation of the national clinical audit, the need to prevent patients from stockpiling medicines and the importance of pharmacies putting business continuity plans in place.

Pharmacies should create business continuity plans that identify “specific roles and actions” that could “support managing local demand” and “work in collaboration with” local healthcare providers, Mr Ridge said.

He also suggested that pharmacies with online booking systems make it clear at the booking stage that those potentially infected with the virus should not visit the pharmacy, but should instead self-isolate.

The letter reiterated that pharmacies should not encourage patient to stockpile medicines, which could “impact adversely on the supply chain and result in shortages”.

Official guidance for community pharmacy was published by NHS England last week (February 27).

PSNC: “Pressing for further support”

This week, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) will be entering into “detailed discussions” with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS England and NHS Improvement to “plan for the potential later phases” of the outbreak, the organisation said yesterday (March 9).

“We will be pressing for further support and protection for pharmacies that are already being impacted by the outbreak in the UK,” the PSNC announced.

The negotiating body explained it is looking to secure “cash flow solutions should contractors have to deal with rapidly rising medicines prices” and funding for pharmacies that have to close temporarily due to coronavirus. The arrangements would form part of the community pharmacy contractual framework.

The PSNC said it will also discuss how pharmacies could support patients with the virus who are self-isolating, and the potential redeployment of pharmacy staff to other community pharmacies or healthcare settings.

Paracetamol hit by coronavirus price hikes

P3 Pharmacy, 10 March 2020

Community pharmacy contractors are reporting that wholesaler prices for paracetamol and other medicines have risen substantially in recent weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Paracetamol was one of the 26 active ingredients included on an export ban list published by the Indian government on March 3. This, combined with a slowdown in output from China due to the COVID-19 emergency, has contributed to significant price hikes on a number of drugs, contractors have said.

Last week, one contractor told Pharmacy Network News that prices for packs of 100 paracetamol tablets that were normally available for around 46p had risen to more than £2 with some wholesalers.

‘Unprecedented’

Today (March 10) Bristol contractor Ade Williams told PNN he was struggling to source any paracetamol and that any product that was available was selling for “two or three times normal trade prices”.

Mr Williams said he had seen wholesalers selling paracetamol for higher than his normal retail prices, such as a trade price of 99p for a pack his pharmacy usually sold for around 60p. He described this as “completely unprecedented”.

He said it had become “very difficult to get hold of any OTC pack size” because supplies were being rationed by wholesalers. Prescription pack sizes were also being affected, he said.

Mr Williams called for the sector to take a more proactive approach to sharing information on drug prices, noting that some patients heard of India’s export ban through national media reports and had begun stockpiling paracetamol before all pharmacy teams knew of the situation.

CMA ‘monitoring reports’

The Competition and Markets Authority said last week it was “monitoring reports of changes to sales and pricing practices” during the coronavirus outbreak.

The CMA said it “wanted to ensure that traders do not exploit the current situation to take advantage of people” and that it would consider any reports they were “charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about the efficacy of protective equipment.”

CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We urge retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak and not to make misleading claims or charge vastly inflated prices.”

PSNC told PNN it was “keeping a close eye on the generics (including paracetamol) affected by recent price hikes”.

The negotiator also said it was having discussions with DHSC on “protection for pharmacies against sudden price rises”.

Depakote shortage

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 10 March 2020

Depakote 250mg and 500mg tablets are out of stock until early April 2020. Alternatives include:

  • Parallel import companies
  • Syonell tablets
  • Belvo tablets

Clinicians are advised to prescribe generically. See the shortage notice for more information.

Ex-Ministry of Sound MD appointed health minister

HSJ, Dave West, 10 March 2020

The government has appointed a health minister in the Lords, who will lead on innovation and life sciences.

Lord Bethell was yesterday confirmed as Parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Health and Social Care, following last month’s resignation of Baroness Blackwood.

The hereditary peer has been a government whip in the Lords since last year, and has previously worked as a businessman — including as managing director for the Ministry of Sound nightclub — and as a political adviser, in public relations, and as a reporter.

He said on Twitter he was “honoured to be appointed a health minister [and] proud to be part of government’s [Lords] front bench team”.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “A big welcome to Lord Bethell who joins the department as our Lords Minister, responsible for life sciences. Big shoes to fill, but I am sure he’ll make a big impact.”

Meanwhile, the Commons health and social care committee has launched its first major thematic inquiry since last year’s general election, on social care funding and workforce.

The inquiry announcement said: “The inquiry into social care funding will seek to establish how much extra money would need to be spent by government in each of the next five years to counteract the impact of a shortage of care on the NHS.”

Media And Political Bulletin – 11 March 2020

From Factory to Pharmacy

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