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Media and Political Bulletin – 29 July 2020

Media and Political Bulletin

29 July 2020

Media Summary

Medicine supplies stretched and must be boosted ahead of possible second wave of coronavirus, MPs warn

Evening Standard, Sean Morrison, 29 July 2020

The Evening Standard reports that in a report examining the economic impact of Covid-19, the Commons International Trade Committee said the typical six-month “buffer stock” of supplies needs to be increased.

“While UK supply chains for medicines have proved to be resilient, they can only be stretched so far. “The Government must ensure that buffer stock of medicines (which typically only lasts up to six months) is being replenished in case of a further pandemic wave.”

A Government spokeswoman said the Department for International Trade was leading a review, called Project Defend, aimed at strengthening supply chains for critical goods. She added: “Medical supplies are critical to the Government’s response to coronavirus and the department’s global team has worked around the clock to support the continued flow of medical supplies and equipment and other essential goods into the UK.”

Rise in use of illicit benzodiazepines, PHE warns pharmacies

Chemist+Druggist, Eliza Slawther, 28 July 2020

Chemist+Druggist reports that Public Health England (PHE) has told pharmacies to “be alert” after evidence of hospitalisations, seizures and deaths linked to people taking illicit drugs sold as benzodiazepines.

Healthcare professionals who are in contact with people who use illegal drugs should “be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from illicit drugs sold as benzodiazepines, raise awareness and be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately”, PHE said in a central alerting system alert last week (July 24).

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

Full Coverage

Medicine supplies stretched and must be boosted ahead of possible second wave of coronavirus, MPs warn

Evening Standard, Sean Morrison, 29 July 2020

Stockpiles of medicines need to be boosted ahead of a possible second wave of coronavirus, MPs have warned.

In a report examining the economic impact of Covid-19, the Commons International Trade Committee said the typical six-month “buffer stock” of supplies needs to be increased.

It found that UK trade in essential goods like pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and food had mainly managed well in the crisis, but more action was needed.

MPs on the committee said: “UK supply chains in these critical sectors have largely held up during the pandemic, despite spikes in demand, disruption to production and freight, and export bans in some countries.

“While UK supply chains for medicines have proved to be resilient, they can only be stretched so far.

“The Government must ensure that buffer stock of medicines (which typically only lasts up to six months) is being replenished in case of a further pandemic wave.”

Committee chairman and SNP MP Angus MacNeil said dealing with the economic impact of coronavirus was a matter of “intimidating complexity”.

He said: “The question now facing trade policymakers is not only how to help economies respond to the damage caused by Covid-19 but also how to better prepare for a similarly dire scenario in the future.

“It is a task of intimidating complexity and seeing it through will require political dexterity.

“Ensuring supply-chain resilience and access to essential goods needs smart solutions that avoid falling into the trap of short-sighted protectionism.

“At the same time, the Department for International Trade must ensure it provides the right support to UK businesses as they rebuild, as well as leading international efforts to respond to this disease through co-ordinated trade policy. Their successes and failures will affect us all.”

The committee also called for the Government to consider adjusting intellectual property provisions to allow for compulsory licensing of therapeutic drugs or vaccines against Covid-19.

MPs said this could be a means of ensuring they can be made available as quickly, widely and cheaply as possible.

The committee called on the Department for International Trade (DIT) to “improve communication” about how it can support exporters to recover from the pandemic.

The report expressed “concern” about the lack of a co-ordinated international trade plan early in the pandemic.

MPs said this was in contrast to what happened in the 2008 financial crisis and called on the Government “to act to ensure that temporary disruptions do not become permanent barriers to trade”.

The MPs also urged transparency, stating: “The committee calls on the Government to be as open as possible about the measures it is considering to address supply chain vulnerabilities.

“It asks for clarity about how the Government will balance national security with its ambition to be a global champion of free trade.

“The report calls on DIT to step up its efforts in helping inward investors.

“The committee also calls on the Government to set out its approach to investment agreements in light of issues raised by the pandemic.

“Following concerns about predatory investors taking advantage of the devaluation of assets in the pandemic, the committee asks the Government to set out how it will strike a balance between screening investment for security concerns and promoting inward investment.”

A Government spokeswoman said the Department for International Trade was leading a review, called Project Defend, aimed at strengthening supply chains for critical goods.

She added: “Medical supplies are critical to the Government’s response to coronavirus and the department’s global team has worked around the clock to support the continued flow of medical supplies and equipment and other essential goods into the UK.

“The Department for Health and Social Care is doing everything possible to prepare for all scenarios and protect NHS patients including building a stockpile of crucial medicines.”

Rise in use of illicit benzodiazepines, PHE warns pharmacies

Chemist+Druggist, Eliza Slawther, 28 July 2020

Public Health England (PHE) has told pharmacies to “be alert” after evidence of hospitalisations, seizures and deaths linked to people taking illicit drugs sold as benzodiazepines.

Healthcare professionals who are in contact with people who use illegal drugs should “be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from illicit drugs sold as benzodiazepines, raise awareness and be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately”, PHE said in a central alerting system alert last week (July 24).

The alert, which was sent to community pharmacy teams, highlighted “significant evidence from toxicology results of illicit tablets being sold as diazepam, temazepam and alprazolam linked to recent hospitalisations and deaths”.

“This includes tablets known as and or marked with ‘DAN 5620’ (on one side) and ‘10’ (on the other), ‘T-20’, ‘TEM 20’, ‘Bensedin’ and ‘MSJ’ which may contain dangerously potent benzodiazepines or their analogues such as flubromazolam, flualprazolam and etizolam,” it explained.

Harm reduction advice

Most of these tablets are blue, although they also come in other colours and “may stain people’s mouths”, PHE said.

They are often “available in blister packs or pharmacy tubs to make them appear to be genuine medicines”, with the packaging claiming that they feature a “certain dose of diazepam (often referred to as ‘Valium’) or alprazolam (often referred to as ‘Xanax’)”, the alert explained.

In reality, “they may not actually contain any of those substances at all”.

The illicit benzodiazepines can be particularly harmful when used in combination with alcohol and drugs with “a respiratory depressant effect, including gabapentinoids and opioids”, PHE said.

The alert advised people who come into contact with people who have taken the affected drugs to give “harm reduction advice and information”, including administering naloxone if you are competent and able to do so; calling for an ambulance; monitoring for signs of an overdose and giving first aid.

Media and Political Bulletin – 29 July 2020

From Factory to Pharmacy

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