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Media And Political Bulletin – 13 March 2020

Media and Political Bulletin

13 March 2020

Media Summary

Call for pharmacists to be allowed to dispense from original packs during COVID-19 pandemic

The Pharmaceutical Journal, Carolyn Wickware, 12 March 2020

The Pharmaceutical Journal reports that the chief executive of the NPA, Mark Lyonette, has called on the NHS to implement a series of contingency measures after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

In a statement, the NPA called on the NHS and the government to implement eight contingency measures “to mitigate against the impact of COVID-19 on pharmacy businesses”. The proposed measures include enabling pharmacists to “save time in the dispensing process by moving to original pack dispensing, rather than breaking packs to reach the prescribed number of tablets”, as well as allowing “flexibility in relation to re-packing medicines for sale from a bulk pack”.

The NPA also calls on the government to “suspend obligations for non time-dependent pharmacy tasks,” noting the recent cancellation of the national clinical audit. It said the measures would “help pharmacies maintain continuity of service to patients” in the face of an outbreak.

Coronavirus triggers sharp rise in price of pain relief medication

The Guardian, Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler, 12 March 2020

The Guardian reports that the cost of over-the-counter pain relief medication has jumped in the UK as drugmakers demand price increases on the back of raw material shortages triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

High street retailers and pharmacies confirmed that the cost of sourcing paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin had all risen sharply in recent weeks, in some cases by as much as 30%, as drugs wholesalers sought to pass on higher costs.

Some independent pharmacies are struggling with the wholesale price rises, while big chains have largely been able to use their financial firepower to absorb the costs.

Some suppliers have placed limits on the volume of pain relief products they will provide to retailers and pharmacies, to ensure stock is distributed evenly around the country. In turn, many retailers are limiting the number of boxes of pain relief and children’s medication shoppers can purchase.

This was also reported in the Mirror.

Revealed: 142 pharmacies in England have closed in a year-and-a-half

C+D, Eliza Slawther, 12 March 2020

An exclusive C+D investigation has identified that at least 142 bricks-and-mortar community pharmacies closed across England between May 2018 and October 2019. The new findings add to the 140 pharmacies identified by a 2018 C+D investigation as having closed between November 2016 – the month before the 12% funding cuts came into force – and May 2018.

More than half of closures since May 2018 have been pharmacies owned by CCA members. Commenting on this, CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison said the level of funding available to community pharmacy “cannot sustain the current scale of the network”.

“We need to find a way to allow the network to restructure to reflect funding levels,” he added.

Mr Harrison said the CCA is calling for NHS England to “work with the sector” to prevent the “gradual erosion of quality and safety of care for patients as funding is continually squeezed”.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Budget 2020

Transport

  • In a drive to promote air quality improvement, the government announced in its Budget that it will remove the entitlement to use red diesel except for agriculture, fish farming, rail and non-commercial heating.
  • Road transport is responsible for 91% of domestic transport greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the biggest contributors to poor air quality in the UK’s towns and cities. The government has set ambitious targets to increase the number of zero emission vehicles on the road and is currently consulting on bringing forward the phaseout date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040.
  • The government will freeze fuel duty for a tenth year in a row

Sector investment

According to the new Budget, public R&D investment, including in the life sciences, will be increased to £22 billion per year by 2024-25. The announcement comes days after the UK government pledged a £46 million investment package to develop a coronavirus vaccine and develop a test for the disease. This additional support brings the UK’s investment into COVID-19 research to £65 million.

House of Lords – Written Answer

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (asked on 27 February 2020): Department of Health and Social Care European Medicines Agency Lords HL1980 To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Brexit has resulted in any changes in the UK’s participation in, and access to, the European Medicines Agency; if so, what assessment they have made of the impact this will have on the UK’s ability to respond to coronavirus; and what steps they intend to take as a result.

Lord Bethell (answered on 12 March 2020): As of 1 January 2020, we are in the transition period during which the United Kingdom will continue to follow European legislation and European Medicines Agency (EMA) processes and decisions until 31 December 2020. We continue to receive public safety information from the EMA and have firm links with the World Health Organization and other key international public health organisations working on this issue. The Government has set out its negotiation approach with the European Union, which includes commitments for cooperation and information sharing to enable regulators to act promptly to safeguard patient safety and public health.

The UK is a world leader in preparing for and managing public health incidents and on 3 March the Government published its action plan to tackle the spread of coronavirus. A copy of Coronavirus: action plan. A guide to what you can expect across the UK is attached.

 

Full Coverage

Call for pharmacists to be allowed to dispense from original packs during COVID-19 pandemic

The Pharmaceutical Journal, Carolyn Wickware, 12 March 2020

The chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, Mark Lyonette, has called on the NHS to implement a series of contingency measures after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Pharmacists should be able to dispense from original packs as a time-saving contingency measure to cope with COVID-19, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has said.

In a statement, published on 11 March 2020, the NPA called on the NHS and the government to implement eight contingency measures “to mitigate against the impact of COVID-19 on pharmacy businesses”.

It said the measures would “help pharmacies maintain continuity of service to patients” in the face of an outbreak.

The NPA’s proposed measures include enabling pharmacists to “save time in the dispensing process by moving to original pack dispensing, rather than breaking packs to reach the prescribed number of tablets”, as well as allowing “flexibility in relation to re-packing medicines for sale from a bulk pack”.

It also calls on the government to “suspend obligations for non time-dependent pharmacy tasks,” noting the recent cancellation of the national clinical audit.

Mark Lyonette, chief executive at the NPA, said pharmacists are “meeting requests for advice about preventing coronavirus”, while also fulfilling everyday tasks.

“As always, community pharmacy is playing an invaluable role by diverting routine activity away from other parts of the health service facing extra workload,” he said.

“Therefore, it is very important that pharmacies are supported during this period, to stay operational as businesses and effective as frontline providers of patient care.”

The measures also asked the government to “consider the knock-on impact of limited hospital capacity for palliative care”, suggesting that community pharmacies may help more people in the community at the end of their lives.

The NPA’s call for improved contingency measures comes after the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said it was in talks with the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care about funding arrangements for pharmacies that need to close temporarily and “cash flow solutions” to help pharmacists cope with rising medicine prices.

“Many pharmacies are small businesses with existing cash flow problems,” the NPA statement said.

“Coronavirus could exacerbate this situation, so an NHS scheme may be necessary to brings forward payments to pharmacy businesses and cover shortfalls.”

Pharmacists have already told The Pharmaceutical Journal that they have seen the cost of paracetamol increase drastically following the news that India would cease parallel exporting of the drug.

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

Coronavirus triggers sharp rise in price of pain relief medication

The Guardian, Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler, 12 March 2020

The cost of over-the-counter pain relief medication has jumped in the UK as drugmakers demand price increases on the back of raw material shortages triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

High street retailers and pharmacies confirmed that the cost of sourcing paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin had all risen sharply in recent weeks, in some cases by as much as 30%, as drugs wholesalers sought to pass on higher costs.

Some independent pharmacies are struggling with the wholesale price rises – one reported having to push through several successive increases – while big chains have largely been able to use their financial firepower to absorb the costs.

Christian Jakobsson, the managing director of online pharmacy Medino, said its supplier was now charging 85p for 32 capsules of 500mg paracetamol, which was a third – or 21p – more than in February. “We have seen similar price increases for ibuprofen,” he added.

Boots said it was aware of some wholesale price increases, but said: “Customers can be reassured that the cost of their regular brands, including Boots own brand paracetamol, has not and will not go up. The same is true for our antibacterial products.”

It is understood that Aspar Pharmaceuticals, a major supplier of pain relief medicines to chemists and supermarkets, including market leader Tesco, wrote to clients this week asking for a near 20% price increase on its aspirin and paracetamol. Another supplier, Bell’s Healthcare, is also understood to have asked for a similar price rise on ibuprofen.

In its letter to clients, Aspar said it had been forced to put up prices as there was a shortage of raw materials from both China and India, pushing up the cost of its supplies. Aspar declined to comment.

Last week India, the world’s biggest supplier of generic drugs, limited the export of certain medicines, including paracetamol. The Chinese shutdown has fractured the industry’s supply chain as many of India’s drugmakers get their base ingredients there.

Some suppliers have placed limits on the volume of pain relief products they will provide to retailers and pharmacies, to ensure stock is distributed evenly around the country. In turn, many retailers are limiting the number of boxes of pain relief and children’s medication shoppers can purchase.

Boots said it had seen an increase in sales of hand sanitisers and cold, flu and pain relief medication. On Tuesday it imposed a limit of two items per customer on cough and cold medication, pain relief, children’s medicines, thermometers and tissues, in addition to baby sterilising and antibacterial products, hand sanitiser and handwash.

“Given current demand, we are exploring new avenues of supply and alternative brands,” said a Boots spokeswoman. “We will endeavour to price appropriately, to reflect costs within our control.”

Phoenix, the owner of the Rowlands pharmacy chain, said it had seen a considerable increase in demand for medicines such as paracetamol and Calpol. It said it had put order restrictions in place on some products to “ensure equitable supply across the UK”.

Phoenix confirmed that prices for some medicines had increased, but said: “This is beyond the control of medicine distributors like Phoenix.”

McKesson, the pharmaceuticals supplier that owns the Lloyds pharmacy chain, said it had processes in place with suppliers and manufacturers “designed to help minimise the impact of shortages and ensure we are able to provide a consistent supply of critical products”.

A spokesperson said: “We are experiencing an unprecedented demand for over-the-counter pain relief and are doing everything we can to ensure we provide a consistent supply of medicines. This includes sourcing from multiple providers and putting commitments in place with manufacturers to secure supply.”

This was also reported in the Mirror.

Revealed: 142 pharmacies in England have closed in a year-and-a-half

C+D, Eliza Slawther, 12 March 2020

An exclusive C+D investigation has found that 142 pharmacies closed in England between May 2018 and October 2019, adding to the 140 that had already shut since 2016’s funding cuts.

Analysis of Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS Digital data has identified that at least 142 bricks-and-mortar community pharmacies closed across England between May 2018 and October 2019.

The investigation also revealed the location of each of the premises, which can be viewed on C+D’s interactive map below.

The new findings add to the 140 pharmacies identified by a 2018 C+D investigation as having closed between November 2016 – the month before the 12% funding cuts came into force – and May 2018.

Of the 142 identified as closing between May 2018 and October 2019, 99 were owned by multiples, while 43 were independents.

Of the multiples, Lloydspharmacy branches accounted for 51 closures, 26 were owned by Boots, nine by Rowlands, seven by Day Lewis, three by Cohens, two by Well and one by Jhoots.

CCA: Funding “cannot sustain network”

More than half of closures since May 2018 have been pharmacies owned by CCA members.

Commenting on this, CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison said the level of funding available to community pharmacy “cannot sustain the current scale of the network”.

“We need to find a way to allow the network to restructure to reflect funding levels,” he added.

Mr Harrison said the CCA is calling for NHS England to “work with the sector” to prevent the “gradual erosion of quality and safety of care for patients as funding is continually squeezed”.

Boots: 28 of 200 store closures confirmed

Boots UK’s parent company Walgreen Boots Alliance confirmed earlier this year (January 9) that it had completed 28 of the 200 planned store closures that were announced in June 2019.

The multiple said it currently has “no further details to share”, and did not comment on the 26 locations identified by C+D. The remaining two branches confirmed by Boots as having closed may have closed after October 2019, or not been located in England, and therefore were not included in this investigation.

Lloyds: “Increasing financial pressures”

Lloydspharmacy announced in October 2017 that it would cease trading in 190 “commercially unviable” locations. To date, C+D has identified more than 120 of these.

Commenting on the most recent 51 branch closures, mapped below, a spokesperson for Lloydspharmacy said “good business practice” requires the company to “regularly review” its estate and make “appropriate commercial decisions including buying and selling pharmacies”.

Lloydspharmacy “may decide to close a pharmacy” rather than put “patient safety and colleague wellbeing” at risk if a store is not profitable, it added.

The company cited “increasing financial pressures”, including business rates and changes to pharmacy funding, as contributing to the decision to close branches.

Well: Transferring patients

Well has said it closed the two pharmacy branches in 2018 for reasons including “the current and future profitability of each individual pharmacy, the location of our nearby pharmacies and the local marketplace”.

The company also “considers the funding reductions across the whole of the pharmacy industry”, it added.

When a branch closes, the multiple says it works with patients to “transfer them to another local Well pharmacy, introduce them [to its] digital service if appropriate or discuss other options, including moving to a competitor”.

Rowlands: Funding pressures to blame

Rowlands has put three of its closures down to the funding cuts, which it said rendered the businesses “unsustainable”.

The other six were the result of a “merge and close”, where the pharmacies were merged with nearby branches, it added.

NPA: Government must “direct money” into sector

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) blames “rising costs and cuts to funding” for the wave of independent pharmacies closing.

“Many independent pharmacies are running on empty and unable to keep their doors open,” NPA CEO Mark Lyonette (pictured above) told C+D in January.

He said the government “must be prepared to direct more money into community pharmacy” to avoid uncontrolled closures and support new services.

Increased funding for community pharmacies can release pressure on NHS resources and “would be a wise investment”, Mr Lyonette added.

Media And Political Bulletin – 13 March 2020

From Factory to Pharmacy

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