News

Media And Political Bulletin – 25 March 2020

Media and Political Bulletin

25 March 2020

Media Summary

Pharmacists urge UK drug firms to start manufacturing paracetamol in Britain – not overseas – as desperate shoppers strip shelves bare and retailers warn they will sell out by Saturday

Daily Mail, Connor Boyd, 25 March 2020

The Daily Mail reports that pharmacists are urging UK drug firms to manufacture paracetamol in Britain amid a nationwide shortage caused by panic buying and production lines drying up in Asia.

Britain relies heavily on India – the world’s biggest supplier of generic drugs – for the painkiller, but the South Asian nation has restricted exports of the painkiller after factories in China, where the ingredient is mainly made, ground to a halt. The move, combined with shoppers desperately stocking up, has left supermarket and chemist shelves stripped bare.

This comes a day after pharmacies were told they can split large packs of paracetamol and sell single strips to the public. The RPS called for stores not to not to profit off the crisis.

The Department of Health denies there is a shortage of paracetamol in the UK.

Amazon and eBay failing to stop Covid-19 profiteers, says Which?

The Guardian, Rebecca Smithers, 25 March 2020

The Guardian reports that the consumer group Which? has warned that online shopping platforms eBay and Amazon Marketplace are failing to crackdown on a surge in profiteering by sellers due to the coronavirus, after its investigation uncovered a wide range of products on sale at “extortionate” prices.

Which? found “consistent overpricing” of household items, including cleaning products, hand sanitiser, thermometers, baby formula and tampons, which have all been in high demand since the coronavirus outbreak but in short supply in supermarkets and pharmacies.

The CMA has set up a coronavirus taskforce to crackdown on companies that cash in during the outbreak, but the snapshot investigation suggests third-party sellers are still “brazenly” ripping-off consumers and using the current situation to list overpriced items that are difficult or impossible to find in local shops.

COVID-19: National medicines delivery service announced for England

C+D, Eliza Slawther, 24 March 2020

C+D reports that a national community pharmacy medicines delivery service for England is due to start “in the next few days”, the PSNC has said. As part of the new service commissioned by NHS England & NHS Improvement, community pharmacies will deliver medicines to self-isolating patients during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Up to 1.5 million people in the UK have been told to stay at home for 12 weeks – a process known as shielding. Shielded patients will be asked to have their medicines collected and delivered to them by “friends, family or a volunteer” before being directed to the pharmacy provided delivery service if this is not possible, the PSNC explained in a statement on Sunday.

“We anticipate the service will commence in the next few days,” it added.

MHRA issues FMD over HMS Wholesale Limited products

European Pharmaceutical Review, Hannah Balfour, 24 March 2020

The UK MHRA has announced that it is investigating how several medicines may have left the legal supply chain to be reintroduced via HMS Wholesale Limited. European Pharmaceutical Review reports that a Class 4 FMD has been issued.

According to the MHRA, the products seem to be legitimate with genuine batch numbers. However, since they may have been stolen in early 2019 and reintroduced later that same year, their efficacy and safety cannot be guaranteed. The company has now had its wholesale licence terminated.

The advice from the MHRA is that if suppliers or patients have received any of these batches from HMS Wholesale Limited after May to August 2019, stocks must be checked and any remaining affected products quarantined, before notifying the Defective Medicines Report Centre (DMRC) or the MHRA.

UK in talks with Amazon and others to deliver coronavirus tests

Financial Times, Pilita Clark, Jim Pickard and Dave Lee, 23 March 2020

This article is subject to copyright terms and conditions. Please access full article here.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons – Written Answer, 24 March 2020

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 plans he has to manufacture more active pharmaceutical ingredients in the UK to prevent medicine shortages.
  • 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.

Jo Churchill (answered on 24 March 2020): The Department of Health and Social Care has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.

House of Commons – Written Question Tabled, 24 March 2020

Judith Cummins (Bradford South): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps are being taken to help community pharmacies handle increased patient walk-ins as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

 

Full Coverage

Pharmacists urge UK drug firms to start manufacturing paracetamol in Britain – not overseas – as desperate shoppers strip shelves bare and retailers warn they will sell out by Saturday

Daily Mail, Connor Boyd, 25 March 2020

Pharmacists are urging UK drug firms to manufacture paracetamol in Britain amid a nationwide shortage caused by panic buying and production lines drying up in Asia amid the coronavirus crisis.

Britain relies heavily on India – the world’s biggest supplier of generic drugs – for the painkiller, but the South Asian nation has restricted exports of the painkiller after factories in China, where the ingredient is mainly made, ground to a halt.

The move, combined with shoppers desperately stocking up, has left supermarket and chemist shelves stripped bare.

The NHS advises coronavirus patients take paracetamol for their symptoms, after the Government urged infected Brits to steer clear of ibuprofen.

UK manufacturers now need to step up and start making the painkiller in Britain to prevent the ‘grim reality’ of COVID-19 patients not being able to get pain relief, pharmacists say.

Consulting pharmacist Shamir Patel, of online service Doctor-4-U, told MailOnline: ‘We are seeing a huge spike in the demand for medicines such as paracetamol due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, due to a perfect storm of high demand for those worried about availability and the fact the raw ingredients come from China.

‘This is obviously very worrying for many people in the UK and a situation which should not be allowed to happen.

‘As well as asking people to reduce the amount of paracetamol they are buying to a normal level, UK pharmaceutical companies need to put in place a system whereby medicines such as paracetamol can be manufactured in the UK rather than relying on overseas exports.

‘The advice we are giving to people who are showing the symptoms of COVID-19 is to take paracetamol in order to try to manage their fever and reduce their temperature.

‘But if the supplies run out, which some reports are suggesting could happen in the UK by this weekend, it will further add to the grim reality of the coronavirus crisis.’

It comes a day after pharmacies were told they can split large packs of paracetamol and sell single strips to the public.

The General Pharmaceutical Council said the individual strips, which would come in repackaged boxes, should not be placed on open shelves.

Instead, it said stores should put up notices to tell patients paracetamol supplies are available at the counter.

The GPC, which is the independent regulator for all pharmacists in Britain, did not say how much the tablets should be priced at.

It said: ‘Pharmacies may be experiencing difficulties in obtaining over-the-counter pack sizes of paracetamol from wholesalers at this time.

‘Pharmacies may break down larger packs of paracetamol to prepare smaller packs for people, and the public, who need them.’

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which is the professional membership body for pharmacists, called for stores not to not to profit off the crisis.

It said: ‘Charge a reasonable price for the medicine. It’s not professional to charge excessive prices and we do not support this.’

Trade news publication Chemist and Druggist reported pharmacists had struggled to get hold of paracetamol because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it had ‘stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues or increases in demand’.

Officials have already banned companies from exporting dozens of different drugs, including paracetamol, to keep a solid supply of medication in the UK.

The Department of Health denies there is a shortage of paracetamol in the UK.

Paracetamol is used in other branded drugs, such as Calpol. The firm has already warned of the potential for shortages because of the increase in demand.

By Saturday, Boots expects to have run out of paracetamol and has introduced measure to ration how much customers can buy.

A Boots spokesman said: ‘We have seen an increase in customers looking to buy paracetamol in our stores, and we’re sorry if there may have been limited occasions where we have sold out.

‘We have been working closely with all of our suppliers and have more stock arriving in stores every day.

‘To ensure we can support as many people as possible, there is currently a limit of two units per customer on hand sanitisers, soap and hand wash, pain relief products, cough and cold, all children’s medicines, thermometers, tissues and hand wipes, baby milks, baby sterilising and antibacterial products, and hand creams.

‘There is also a limit of one unit per customer for products containing paracetamol.’

India, the world’s biggest supplier of generic drugs, has already restricted the export of paracetamol – the main chemical in the drug – and 25 other pharmaceutical ingredients.

It relies on China for almost 70 per cent of the ingredients in its drugs but production has dried up in China because of the pandemic, with millions ordered to stay inside.

India’s Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India said some chemicals ‘may face shortages for the next couple of months’.

British paracetamol manufacturer Aspar Pharmaceuticals has already warned it was struggling because supply of ingredients was drying up.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s chief scientist admitted that most of the generic drugs are made in India and China.

Pharmaceutical Journal reports that up to 90 per cent of medicines used in the NHS are imported, with the majority of those from India.

It is unclear how many other UK drug firms make paracetamol. But because it is a generic there is much less profit available for makers.

It comes after the Government’s chief scientific adviser warned earlier this month that Britons with coronavirus should no longer take ibuprofen.

Sir Patrick Vallance admitted the ‘sensible thing to do’ would be to avoid the over-the-counter painkiller amid fears it could worsen the infection.

The NHS also pulled its advice that told patients to take ibuprofen for symptoms of the deadly infection.

Before, its advice named paracetamol and ibuprofen as two painkillers that could fight off a fever and cough. Its help page now only advises paracetamol.

French health minister Olivier Véran prompted questions over the NHS advice when he said anti-inflammatories could ‘aggravate the infection’.

Other leading medics echoed his concerns, admitting the drug could dampen the immune system and even slow down recovery.

And parents of a four-year-old girl with tell-tale coronavirus symptoms claimed that ibuprofen caused her to become seriously ill.

Amelia Milner’s temperature spiked, she began shaking, panting and couldn’t keep her eyes open. She also vomited on herself.

Amazon and eBay failing to stop Covid-19 profiteers, says Which?

The Guardian, Rebecca Smithers, 25 March 2020

The online shopping platforms eBay and Amazon Marketplace are failing to crackdown on a surge in profiteering by sellers due to the coronavirus, a consumer group has warned, after its investigation uncovered a wide range of products on sale at “extortionate” prices.

Which? found “consistent overpricing” of household items, including cleaning products, hand sanitiser, thermometers, baby formula and tampons, which have all been in high demand since the coronavirus outbreak but in short supply in supermarkets and pharmacies.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has set up a coronavirus taskforce to crackdown on companies that cash in during the outbreak and has already contacted traders and online trading platforms about excessive pricing of some products.

But the snapshot investigation by Which? suggests third-party sellers are still “brazenly” ripping-off consumers and using the current situation to list overpriced items that are difficult or impossible to find in local shops.

It found active listings and auctions for dramatically overpriced items, including a thermometer that would usually retail for £40 priced at £300 on eBay and £150 on Amazon. A £3 bottle of disinfectant was on sale for £29.99 on eBay.

On eBay’s auction site, a flurry of bids sent the price for a bundle of three bottles of Dettol spray and three packets of antibacterial wipes soaring to £210. A 50ml bottle of Carex antibacterial hand gel was being sold for more than £100 by multiple sellers on eBay, despite usually costing about £1.50.

Last week the Guardian found one UK-based eBay user selling a 72-pack of Andrex toilet roll for £84.99 – triple its retail price.

Sue Davies, the head of consumer protection at Which?, said: “Online marketplaces have taken some action against coronavirus price gouging, but our investigation shows unscrupulous sellers are still cashing in on people’s fears by selling essential items at extortionate prices on eBay and Amazon.

“These companies must make good on their pledges to stamp out coronavirus profiteering, and the CMA must be ready to take strong enforcement action.”

An eBay spokesperson said: “All the items flagged by Which? have been removed and enforcement action has been taken against the sellers. We announced on Friday additional measures to tackle coronavirus-related price gouging. This is a continuation of aggressive action … which has included suspending hundreds of accounts, removing hundreds of thousands of listings, and suspending scores of bad seller accounts.”

Amazon said: “We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic-need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers. In addition to removing these offers, we are terminating accounts.”

COVID-19: National medicines delivery service announced for England

C+D, Eliza Slawther, 24 March 2020

A national community pharmacy medicines delivery service for England is due to start “in the next few days”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

As part of the new service commissioned by NHS England & NHS Improvement, community pharmacies will deliver medicines to self-isolating patients during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Up to 1.5 million people in the UK have been told to stay at home for 12 weeks – a process known as shielding – as they are at the “highest risk of being hospitalised by the virus”, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said at a daily press briefing from 10 Downing Street on March 22.

Shielded patients will be asked to have their medicines collected and delivered to them by “friends, family or a volunteer” before being directed to the pharmacy provided delivery service if this is not possible, the PSNC explained in a statement on Sunday.

“We anticipate the service will commence in the next few days,” it added.

Contractors will be able to “request support from volunteers to undertake deliveries of prescriptions to any patient, not just those that are being shielded,” it added.

The volunteers are part of a national network being mobilised in response to the epidemic, and patients will also be able to request support from them.

The PSNC said it will “issue full guidance” to contractors as soon as it is able to.

AIMp: Funding “essential”

Leyla Hannbeck, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive officer, said it is “essential there is funding available to cover these deliveries”, as community pharmacy is “cash-starved after many years of funding cuts”.

“We are playing a big role in the supply of medicines to patients who are worried, vulnerable and now those who need to self-isolate. The efforts of this sector need to be recognised and applauded,” she added.

Ms Hannbeck said AIMp encourages “more engagement with community pharmacy early on in the process”, and emphasised the important role pharmacies play in the community.

“We are doing whatever it takes to fight this outbreak,” she added.

MHRA issues FMD over HMS Wholesale Limited products

European Pharmaceutical Review, Hannah Balfour, 24 March 2020

A Class 4 falsified medicines directive (FMD) has been issued by the MHRA because medicines may have left the legal supply chain to be reintroduced later through HMS Wholesale Limited.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced that it is investigating how several medicines may have left the legal supply chain to be reintroduced via HMS Wholesale Limited. The company has now had its wholesale licence terminated.

According to the MHRA, the products seem to be legitimate with genuine batch numbers. However, since they may have been stolen in early 2019 and reintroduced later that same year, their efficacy and safety cannot be guaranteed. The agency stated that this is because they may have been transported or stored incorrectly during this time.

The advice from the MHRA is that if suppliers or patients have received any of these batches from HMS Wholesale Limited after May to August 2019, stocks must be checked and any remaining affected products quarantined, before notifying the Defective Medicines Report Centre (DMRC) or the MHRA.

UK in talks with Amazon and others to deliver coronavirus tests

Financial Times, Pilita Clark, Jim Pickard and Dave Lee, 23 March 2020

This article is subject to copyright terms and conditions. Please access full article here.

Media And Political Bulletin – 25 March 2020

From Factory to Pharmacy

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