HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 3 March 2017

Media Summary

Care Quality Commission advises people to take care when using online primary care services
The Care Quality Commission, 3 March 2017

With a new report, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is calling on people to act with caution when considering buying medicines online. In a joint statement, four regulatory bodies – CQC, the General Medical Council, the General Pharmaceutical Council, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – have reminded providers and healthcare professionals that they must provide safe and effective care. The statement notes the opportunities that come with technological advances but emphasises their commitment to safeguards and sharing intelligence, endorsing the guidance set out by the General Medical Council.

Buying medications online ‘can put health at risk’
BBC News, Dr Faye Kirkland, 3 March 2017

After an investigation into online medicine purchasing, the Quality Care Commission (CQC) says it will visit providers and shut any which put patients at risk. Prof Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice, said there was “little clinical oversight” in the way many websites sold medications. The CQC has now published set guidelines to address the issue, including verifying the patient and providing proper information. Two websites are being urgently inspected: Treated.com and MD Direct.

NHS ‘overcharged’ by drug makers’ non-compete deal, says CMA
BBC News, 3 March 2017

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said that two pharmaceutical companies have pushed up the price of a lifesaving NHS drug. By striking a deal not to compete with each other, the companies allowed a pack of tablets almost to double in price for the NHS, according to provisional findings.

Pharmaceutical industry and patient group collaboration ‘absolutely appropriate’, says ABPI
ABPI, 1 March 2017

Responding to a BBC News story, the APBI has issued a statement supporting the pharmaceutical industry’s working with patient groups to support common goals. Underscoring the strict rules governing the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and patient groups, the ABPI advocated its partnership with National Voice to produce a guide to collaboration between charities and pharmaceutical companies in the UK based on the four key principles of clarity of purpose, integrity, independence and transparency.

NHS sustainability plans unlikely to work without greater government commitment, warns expert
Rochdale Online, 3 March 2017

Kieran Walshe, Professor of health policy and management at the University of Manchester, argues that STPs face crucial barriers to success. At a time of huge financial pressure in the NHS, Walshe warns that they lack enough government engagement and statutory force. To offset this, he voiced support of the recommendations of the Barker commission for a single system of funding to commission health and social care.

Parliamentary Coverage

There is no Parliamentary Coverage.

Full Coverage

The Care Quality Commission, 3 March 2017

Our inspections of some companies providing online primary care have found significant concerns about patient safety.
Well-run services can offer a convenient and effective form of treatment, but inspectors found services that were putting patients at risk of harm by selling medicines without doing enough to check they were appropriate. We are publishing reports from two urgent inspections today – in both cases the providers have stopped providing services in England.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice, said: “As with conventional GP surgeries, online companies and pharmacies are required to provide safe, high-quality and compassionate care and must adhere to exactly the same standards. They must not cut corners.”

Following a review of all online services registered with us we have brought forward our inspection programme. We have prioritised inspections of services we think may present a significant risk to patients.

Today we have:

Published advice for people considering using an online doctor.

Issued a joint statement with the General Medical Council, the General Pharmaceutical Council, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to remind clinicians and service providers that they must continue to follow professional guidelines.

Published information on how we inspect and regulate digital primary care providers.

“The NHS and its leaders have done what they can to map out a sustainable future health and social care system for England. But without a much greater commitment from government, it seems very unlikely that these plans will work,” he concludes.

Buying medications online ‘can put health at risk’
BBC News, Dr Faye Kirkland, 3 March 2017

People should be wary of buying medications on the internet after an investigation found “widespread failings” at some online providers, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said.

The watchdog inspected 11 internet prescription services in England, finding some “potentially presenting a significant risk to patients”.

The regulator said while some providers were well-run, others “cut corners”.

The CQC says it will visit providers and shut any putting patients at risk.

It follows a BBC Radio 5 Live investigation into online pharmacies selling antibiotics.

The CQC has published reports on urgent inspections of two websites: Treated.com, run by HR Healthcare, and MD Direct, which traded through Assetchemist.co.uk.

Prof Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice, said there was “little clinical oversight” in the way many websites sold medications.

“Some of these websites prescribed unlicensed medicines and – even more worryingly – medicines for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and Lithium for bipolar disorder,” he told BBC’s Radio 5 Live.

“Patients can go online, self-diagnose their condition, order their own medicine and obtain a prescription from the online doctor service, with minimal checks,” he said.

‘Making improvements’

The CQC has now published a clear set of standards for online pharmacies, saying they must:
verify that patients match their photo ID, such as through a Skype check, get a comprehensive and up-to-date medical history, ensure patients truly understand what medicines they are being given and seek permission to contact a patient’s GP.

Treated.com was the focus of the 5 Live investigation in October. The CQC suspended the website two months later and began an inspection of its operations.

Riaz Vali, responsible for Treated.com, told the BBC it was making improvements to its processes and systems.

NHS ‘overcharged’ by drug makers’ non-compete deal, says CMA
BBC News, 3 March 2017

Two pharmaceutical firms have been accused of pushing up the price of a “lifesaving” NHS drug by striking a deal not to compete with each other.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in provisional findings that Actavis and Concordia fixed the market for hydrocortisone tablets.

Hydrocortisone treats life-threatening conditions such as Addison’s disease.

A pack of the tablets almost doubled in price for the NHS to £88 while the deal was in place, the CMA said.

“Anti-competitive agreements can cost the NHS, and ultimately the taxpayer, by stopping competition bringing down the cost of lifesaving drugs like hydrocortisone tablets,” said Andrew Groves of the CMA.

“We allege these agreements were intended to keep Actavis UK as the sole supplier of a drug relied on by thousands of patients – and in a position which could allow it to dictate and prolong high prices.”

However, Mr Groves added that the findings were provisional and that the regulator would consider any arguments from the companies before deciding “if the law has been infringed”.

Hydrocortisone tablets are used by patients whose adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones and in many cases helps them to live an active life.

The CMA accused the firms of agreeing between January 2013 and June 2016 that Concordia would not launch its own version of the drug, leaving Actavis as the sole supplier to the NHS for much of that time.

Pharmaceutical firm Teva confirmed Actavis UK was the subject of “allegations of anti-competitive conduct” from the CMA.

The company declined to comment further. The BBC has contacted Concordia for comment.
It is the latest case where the CMA has accused drug makers of overcharging the NHS.

The regulator accused Actavis in December of raising the price for 10mg hydrocortisone tablets by 12,000% in eight years, from 70p to £88.

Earlier that month, Pfizer and Flynn Pharma were fined nearly £90m for raising the price of an anti-epilepsy treatment, although both firms said they would appeal.

Pharmaceutical industry and patient group collaboration ‘absolutely appropriate’, says ABPI
ABPI, 1 March 2017

Following a BBC news story [Wednesday 1 March] reporting that the Hepatitis C Trust took funding from the pharmaceutical industry, the ABPI has responded by highlighting guidance produced in partnership with National Voices, as well as the ABPI Code of Practice.

​​​​​​​In 2015, the ABPI and National Voices jointly produced ‘Working together, delivering​ for patients‘ aiming to promote transparency and accountability in collaborative working and to serve as a practical ‘how to’ guide for all parties.
In response to today’s BBC News story, ABPI have issued the following statement:

“It is absolutely appropriate for the pharmaceutical industry to work with and support patient groups to achieve common objectives such as enhancing patient information, raising awareness of clinical research or improving access to medicines.

This is why in partnership with National Voices we produced a guide to collaboration between charities and pharmaceutical companies in the UK based on the four key principles of clarity of purpose, integrity, independence and transparency, to ensure that collaborations work well for both parties and, ultimately, for patients.

In addition to this, there are strict rules that govern the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and patient groups, and this is central to the ABPI Code of Practice, administered by the arm’s length regulator – the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA). The Code requires that all grants and donations to patient organisations are publicly disclosed by the company, including the purpose of the support.”

NHS sustainability plans unlikely to work without greater government commitment, warns expert
Rochdale Online, 3 March 2017

Local sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) – designed to transform the way health and social care services are organised, delivered, and used across England – are unlikely to work without a much greater commitment from government, warns an expert in The BMJ.

Kieran Walshe, Professor of health policy and management at the University of Manchester, argues that while STPs aim to keep people well and help them to care for themselves, and use health and care services more appropriately, there are four main problems, which if not resolved make it unlikely that these plans will work.

First, he warns that they are being launched at a time of huge, unprecedented levels of financial constraint and challenge in the NHS, which will require considerable investment.

Second, he argues that the plans have been written in a rush, and professional and public consultation and engagement have been largely neglected, resulting in “suspicion and opposition” from the medical profession, the public, and the media.

Third, he says these plans have no statutory force or authority, adding that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 “contains a host of provisions on competition and market access that make these changes open to legal challenge and difficult to implement.”

Finally, these plans are founded on the sound idea that we should bring health and social care services together – but he points out that “social care services are funded separately by local authorities, whose funding has been cut by 37% in real terms over the last six years.”Fixing these problems and giving STPs a real chance to succeed requires action from government, writes Walshe..

He therefore calls for government action to provide realistic transitional funding for the changes and to give political backing to the changes and allow for proper consultation at a national and a local level.

He also calls for legislation to remove the competition and market access provisions of the Health and Social Care Act and to allow for statutory bodies to be created to lead STPs.

Finally, he suggests the government tackle the health and social care divide by implementing the recommendations of the Barker commission for a single system of funding to commission health and social care.

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

Apply to become a Member

Membership of the HDA guarantees your organisation:

  • Access to leading policy and industry forums of debate and discussion
  • Invitations to a range of networking industry events organised through the year, including an Annual Conference and a Business Day
  • Representation on HDA working parties, including the Members’ Liaison Group
  • A daily Political and Media Bulletin and HDA Newsletters
  • Access to HDA policy documents and all sections of the HDA website
  • Branding and marketing opportunities
Apply Now

Already a Member?