News

Media And Political Bulletin – 15 April 2020

Media and Political Bulletin

15 April 2020

Media Summary

Two arrested for illegally selling Covid-19 home testing kits

The Guardian, Jamie Grierson, 15 April 2020

The Guardian reports that a pharmacist and a surveyor have been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling coronavirus testing kits in two separate investigations by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

In another unrelated move, the NCA took down a website trying to fool victims into buying suspected non-existent personal protective equipment (PPE) through phishing emails.

Nikki Holland, NCA director of investigations, said: “Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives. Anyone thinking of trying to profit in this way should take note of these arrests and that bringing these offenders to justice and ceasing their activities is a key priority across law enforcement.”

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, added: “Covid-19 is increasingly being used as a hook to commit fraud – and we think these offences are likely to increase during the pandemic.”

This was also reported on by Sky News and the Express.

EMA task force established to co-ordinate rapid regulatory action for COVID-19 medicines

European Pharmaceutical Review, Hannah Balfour, 14 April 2020

European Pharmaceutical Review reports that the EMA has finalised and published the composition and objectives of its COVID-19 EMA pandemic Task Force (COVID-ETF).

The task force was established as part of the agency’s health threat plan, to aid EU member states and the European Commission (EC) in dealing with the development, authorisation and safety monitoring of therapeutics and vaccines intended for treatment or prevention of COVID-19.

According to the EMA, COVID-ETF will enable a fast and coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, by drawing on expertise from the European medicines regulatory network. In all its activities, the task force is accountable to the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP).

Medicines supply notices

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 14 April 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care has published the following medicines supply notices:

NHS not going to run out of drugs to treat patients, senior medics stress

Evening Express, Press Association, 12 April 2020

Evening Express reports that senior medics have said there will be enough drugs to treat critically ill patients in intensive care despite fears of drug shortages. But leaders in intensive care medicine and anaesthetics also warned that people should obey social distancing rules in order to reduce the burden on NHS resources.

Their comments come amid reports key medicines at some intensive care units were in short supply. Dr Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, told PA news agency: “We are not going to run out of drugs to treat patients, that’s the bottom line. We may do things differently, but patient care won’t be compromised because we have to change the choice of drug.”

Her comments come as she released a joint statement with leaders of the Intensive Care Society, Association of Anaesthetists and Royal College of Anaesthetists.

Warwick Smith, director general of the BGMA, said manufacturers were working “extremely hard” to meet the unprecedented demand for intensive care medicines. He added: “We are currently seeing four-fold demand increases in some areas and so we are particularly focused on the supply of these critical products.”

This was also reported in Metro.

Britain’s supply chain of food and medicine could grind to a halt after nearly HALF of lorries are taken off road as hauliers struggle to stay afloat

Daily Mail, Jemma Carr, 12 April 2020

The Daily Mail reports that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has warned it is reaching crisis point, with many transport firms on the brink of collapse. If they go under, the UK’s fleet of lorries which delivers essential goods such as food and medicine up and down Britain, will stand idle.

An RHA survey found that 46 per cent of trucks have been taken off the road since the COVID-19 crisis began. The main income for many independent hauliers is transporting equipment for large concerts and events, all of which have been cancelled due to coronavirus. Others have been hit by a lack of international imports after airports all but closed down due to the crisis.

Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive, warned many firms are in danger of going out of business permanently. He said they need immediate cash injections to stay afloat so they can continue to keep the UK economy moving.

Mr Burnett said: ‘The measures the Government have come up with simply don’t work.

This was also reported in the Express.

 

 

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons – Written Answers, Tuesday 14 April 2020

Asked by Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West):

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has to apply stress tests to the NHS medicine supply in response to the covid-19 outbreak.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to ensure that the NHS will not face a medicine shortage in the coming months.

Answered by Jo Churchill on 14 April 2020 (Holding answer received on 24 March 2020): The country is well prepared to deal with any impacts of COVID-19 and we have stockpiles of generic drugs, in the event of any supply issues or significant increases in demand.

The Department is working closely with 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.

The steps being taken to protect the United Kingdom’s supplies in response to the COVID-19 outbreak were set out in the Department’s press statement issued on 11 February 2020. This statement is available at the following: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-monitor-impact-of-coronavirus-on-uk-medicine-supply.

 

Asked by Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has to manufacture more active pharmaceutical ingredients in the UK to prevent medicine shortages.

Answered by Jo Churchill on 14 April 2020 (Holding answer received on 24 March 2020): The Government has no plans to create facilities in the United Kingdom to manufacture further active pharmaceutical ingredients. There are 16,000 medicines on the market in the UK. Whilst some of these are manufactured in the UK, most are manufactured abroad. Where medicines are manufactured here, the active ingredients and excipients for those medicines may be manufactured abroad. It is not realistic to manufacture all 16,000 medicines and the active ingredients and excipients needed for these medicines in the UK.

The production of medicines is complex and highly regulated, and materials and processes must meet rigorous safety and quality standards. Supply problems can affect a wide range of medicines and can arise for various reasons, such as manufacturing issues, problems with the raw ingredients and batch failures. These problems arise regardless of where in the world the manufacture takes place.

 

Asked by Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether his Department will take steps for pharmacists who are dealing with members of the public to be issued protective clothing and equipment.

Answered by Jo Churchill Answered on 14 April 2020 (Holding answer received on 24 March 2020): Packs of personal protective equipment (PPE) have now been delivered to community pharmacies by DPD. This began on 13 March 2020; and deliveries were completed on 17 March 2020. These packs are only for use by pharmacy staff in line with the standard operating procedure for community pharmacy, and contain masks, aprons and gloves.

If pharmacies have not received their PPE packs, or if the pack delivered is incomplete, they can contact the National Supply Disruption Service.

Should community pharmacies require further PPE supplies, they can order this through their wholesalers.

 

Full Coverage

Two arrested for illegally selling Covid-19 home testing kits

The Guardian, Jamie Grierson, 15 April 2020

A pharmacist and a surveyor have been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling coronavirus testing kits in two separate investigations by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

NCA officers arrested a 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon on Saturday under the Fraud Act 2006 after he allegedly made false and misleading claims about tests’ capability. Two properties and a car linked to the suspect were searched. He was released on conditional bail.

In a separate investigation, a 39-year-old surveyor from Uxbridge, west London, was stopped while driving his car, in which 250 Covid-19 testing kits were found. He was arrested under the Fraud Act 2006 after making false and misleading claims about the capability of the tests, which he told investigators he was planning to sell to construction workers. He was released on conditional bail.

In another unrelated move, the NCA took down a website trying to fool victims into buying suspected non-existent personal protective equipment (PPE) through phishing emails.

Nikki Holland, NCA director of investigations, said: “Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives.

“Anyone thinking of trying to profit in this way should take note of these arrests and that bringing these offenders to justice and ceasing their activities is a key priority across law enforcement.”

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, added: “Covid-19 is increasingly being used as a hook to commit fraud – and we think these offences are likely to increase during the pandemic.”

Offenders are targeting people trying to buy medical supplies online and have been sending emails offering fake medical support and scamming people who may be vulnerable or isolated at home, the NCA said.

Frauds have been attempted by trying to lure victims with offers that look too good to be true such as high return investments, “healthcare opportunities” or appeals to support bogus charities.

Tariq Sarwar, head of operations for enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said: “The use of products for the diagnosis of coronavirus infection in community settings, such as pharmacies, for home use, is not at present advised by Public Health England.

“There are no CE-marked tests for home use, and it is illegal to supply such products. The safety, performance or quality of the products cannot be guaranteed and this poses a health risk.” He added: “Always make sure you are buying your medicines from a registered pharmacy or website and your medical devices from reputable retailers.”

This was also reported on by Sky News and the Express.

EMA task force established to co-ordinate rapid regulatory action for COVID-19 medicines

European Pharmaceutical Review, Hannah Balfour, 14 April 2020

The COVID-19 EMA pandemic Task Force (COVID-ETF) will aid in the development, authorisation and safety monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has finalised and published the composition and objectives of its COVID-19 EMA pandemic Task Force (COVID-ETF).

The task force was established as part of the agency’s health threat plan, to aid EU member states and the European Commission (EC) in dealing with the development, authorisation and safety monitoring of therapeutics and vaccines intended for treatment or prevention of COVID-19.

According to the EMA, COVID-ETF will enable a fast and coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, by drawing on expertise from the European medicines regulatory network. In all its activities, the task force is accountable to the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP).

The COVID-ETF is chaired by the EMA and composed of the chair and vice-chair of the CHMP, the agency’s safety committee (PRAC), the Paediatric Committee (PDCO) and relevant working parties, as well as the Co-ordination Group for Mutual Recognition and Decentralised Procedures – Human (CMDh) and the Clinical Trials Facilitation and Co-ordination Group (CTFG). The agency said it will also include CHMP rapporteurs and co-rapporteurs for all COVID-19 medicines and vaccines, additional experts on an ‘as-needed’ basis and will invite additional observers on a case-by-case basis.

The COVID-ETF’s mandate states it will:

  • review the available scientific data on COVID-19 medicinal products and identify promising candidates
  • request data from developers and engage with them in preliminary discussions
  • offer scientific support in collaboration with the CTFG to facilitate clinical trials conducted in the EU for the most promising COVID-19 medicinal products
  • provide feedback on development plans of COVID-19 medicinal products when formal rapid scientific advice is not feasible
  • act as advisor to the Scientific Advice Working Party (SAWP) or the CHMP for formal scientific advice and product-related assessment and contribute to the PRAC activities on emerging safety issues related to COVID-19.

The EMA health threats plan describes how the agency and European medicines regulatory network intend to respond to and communicate about serious health threats like the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is built on experience from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and other health emergencies since, including the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016.

As part of this plan, specific expert groups such as the COVID-ETF and scientific advisory groups can be swiftly convened to assist the EMA’s scientific committees or take part in early scientific discussions and medicines’ reviews.

Medicines supply notices

Dispensing Doctors’ Association, Ailsa Colquhoun, 14 April 2020

The Department of Health and Social Care has published the following medicines supply notices:

Acetazolamide SR 250mg capsules

  • Out of stock until the end of July 2020
  • Acetazolamide immediate release 250mg tablets remain available
  • Unlicensed imports of acetazolamide SR 250mg capsules are available in limited quantities

Konakion Sol for Inj Amp 2mg/0.2ml (2mg Phytomenadionein 0.2ml).

  • Anticipated resupply date: end of May 2020.
  • Unlicensed imported Konakion 2mg is available

Konakion MM Paediatric

  • Out of stock until the end of May 2020
  • Unlicensed supplies available

NHS not going to run out of drugs to treat patients, senior medics stress

Evening Express, Press Association, 12 April 2020

There will be enough drugs to treat critically ill patients in intensive care despite fears of drug shortages, senior medics have said.

But leaders in intensive care medicine and anaesthetics also warned that people should obey social distancing rules in order to reduce the burden on NHS resources.

Their comments come amid reports key medicines at some intensive care units were in short supply.

But speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference on Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government was working with pharmaceutical industry to ensure the right medicines were in place.

He added: “I can assure everyone that we’re working very closely with the pharmaceutical supply chain and hospital pharmacies so that the right medicines are there to treat people.

“And I’m glad to see the reassurances that have been provided today that everybody can have the medicines they need in order to get the care that they need.”

Intensive care consultant Dr Ron Daniels told the BBC that quality of care for all intensive care patients – not just coronavirus sufferers – will “likely be lower” as a result.

But Dr Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, said that the NHS was not going to run out of medicines to treat patients and that care will not be compromised.

She told the PA news agency that medics have been issued new guidance telling them to use alternatives which were “perfectly safe for patients”.

Dr Pittard added: “We are not going to run out of drugs to treat patients, that’s the bottom line.

“We may do things differently, but patient care won’t be compromised because we have to change the choice of drug.

“I want to reassure the public – we know what we are doing, we are working together, we know what the situation is, and we are making sure they are our first priority.”

Her comments come as she released a joint statement with leaders of the Intensive Care Society, Association of Anaesthetists and Royal College of Anaesthetists.

In it, they said that while medics might not always be able to use their first choice drug, they expect them to be able to use an appropriate alternative drug.

Dr Pittard said: “There may be shortages of specific drugs but there are always alternatives in the same class that although staff will need to slightly modify their practice, they will be perfectly safe for patients.”

But the four leaders also stressed the public should continue to adhere to the Government’s guidance to stay at home.

They added: “By staying at home, not only will you significantly reduce the chance of being infected with Covid-19, but you will save lives by stopping the spread of this virus.

“Your compliant and considerate actions will help reduce the burden on NHS resources and staff who are working night and day to treat incredibly sick patients.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it had banned the “parallel export” of more than 100 medicines to keep supplies in the UK.

A spokesman added: “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 the medicines they need.

“During this global pandemic there is in an increase in demand for a number of intensive care drugs and we are working with the pharmaceutical industry and NHS England to make additional supplies available and ensure they are managed fairly across the UK.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this month that the Government is “currently confident” that the UK has the supply of medicines needed.

Warwick Smith, director general of the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), said manufacturers were working “extremely hard” to meet the unprecedented demand for intensive care medicines.

He added: “The very significant increase in the number of patients requiring mechanical ventilation in intensive care as a result of Covid-19 has inevitably led to an unprecedented demand for the medicines required for that treatment.

“We are currently seeing four-fold demand increases in some areas and so we are particularly focused on the supply of these critical products.

“Increasing production and supply to unprecedented levels in some cases cannot be achieved instantly but manufacturers are working extremely hard to help ensure the highest levels of supply possible.”

This was also reported in Metro.

Britain’s supply chain of food and medicine could grind to a halt after nearly HALF of lorries are taken off road as hauliers struggle to stay afloat

Daily Mail, Jemma Carr, 12 April 2020

Britain’s vital supply chain could grind to a halt as nearly half of the country’s lorries have been taken off the road since the coronavirus crisis began, an industry body has warned.

The lorries are transporting essential goods such as food and medicine up and down Britain as the country continues to battle the pandemic.

Britain’s spiralling death toll hit 10,000 today with 737 new fatalities.

The Road Haulage Association warned it is reaching crisis point with many transport firms are on the brink of collapse.

If they go under, the UK’s fleet of lorries which deliver essentials will stand idle.

Multiple shops and factories rely on hundreds of small independent hauliers to ferry goods to them from distribution centres and ports.

But 46 per cent of the trucks have been taken off the road since the crisis began, an RHA survey found.

The main income for many independent hauliers is transporting equipment for large concerts and events, all of which have been cancelled due to coronavirus.

Others have been hit by a lack of international imports after airports all but closed down due to the crisis.

Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive, warned many firms are in danger of going out of business permanently.

He said they need immediate cash injections to stay afloat so they can continue to keep the UK economy moving.

Mr Burnett said: ‘The measures the Government have come up with simply don’t work.

‘An average haulier will make maybe 2 per cent margin, they’ll have two to three weeks cashflow within their business.

‘We’ve got hauliers at the moment who can’t even furlough their staff, because they have insufficient cash to pay those employees.

‘We need cash, we need grants, we need help to balance and normalise this cashflow problem, and the loan system simply doesn’t work at this point in time.

‘The Government will need to provide more radical financial support to ensure they survive.

‘The events and music world has been decimated with the cancellation of concert tours.

‘One major haulier has parked-up their 170-vehicle fleet and told their driving force nothing will be moving for at least two to three months with all revenue disappearing overnight.

‘Another is in the same situation having had concert tours worth millions cancelled.

‘Panic buying is creating artificial peaks with manufacturers working hard to supply retailers and volumes exceeding the normal Christmas peak.

‘What we’re seeing now, and have seen so far, is the tip of the iceberg.

‘While millions are now working from home we are still expecting truckers to be out there delivering goods like food and medicine. They are taken for granted and have been for years.’

Almost 50 per cent of the food consumed in Britain is imported with 29 per cent of that from Europe.

The RHA said the coronavirus epidemic has the potential to cause ‘catastrophic effects’ on haulage firms if supplies cannot cross borders.

Mr Burnett warned recently ‘Over the past six weeks we have seen container volume from China drop by between 70 and 80 per cent and we are now seeing issues with the flow of raw material, retail product and food from across Europe.

‘Air freight into Heathrow has more or less stopped.

‘It’s hard to know how much this volume will decrease from here as more borders are closed or restricted.

‘So far, road freight movements in Europe have been exempted from most restrictions and in many countries rules limiting or banning the movement of lorries at weekends have been suspended to create greater supply-chain resilience.

‘Any future lockdown of towns and cities and closure of food and retail outlets will suppress volumes further.

‘The main costs for most businesses are vehicles – which are often leased – plus fuel and wages.

‘Businesses are at massive risk from banks and fuel suppliers withdrawing credit and hauliers will collapse quickly if credit is not sustained and extended.

‘This problem is compounded by forthcoming regulatory change requiring companies to invest in new, low emission vehicles.

‘The measures we are calling for must start now. The industry usually starts planning for the mad panic of Christmas in August but this is beyond anything we have seen before.’

Jack Fleming, CEO of Chill-Chain, a cold chain logistics firm, said ‘Unless a company is one of the few that solely supplies supermarkets, you’re seeing fleets really struggling.

‘We’re seeing small and medium-sized haulage fleets struggling for work and that means drivers are being sent home.’

Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at the Freight Transport Association, called on the Government to help.

‘We need to be protecting the businesses seeing a downturn in trade, while also ensuring that where we’re seeing big increases in demand, that as an industry we can fulfil that.’

The Department for Transport said ‘As the Chancellor announced, this Government will provide £330 billion of guarantees, including cash grants of up to £25,000 for several hundred thousand small businesses.

‘We will stand behind businesses small and large and will do everything we can to support businesses to get through this.

‘Ministers are engaging in weekly discussions with the Road Haulage Association to discuss the challenges facing the sector.’

This was also reported in the Express.

Media And Political Bulletin – 15 April 2020

From Factory to Pharmacy

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