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Media And Political Bulletin – 11 May 2020

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 – 11 May 2020

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.

See the Infographic

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