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Emergency Powers for Pharmacists Proposed to Combat Medicine Shortages

on Thursday, 15 November 2018.

The law should be changed to allow pharmacists to substitute prescriptions and obtain medicines from other pharmacies. These are the recommendations of Martin Sawer, Executive Director of the Healthcare Distribution Association.

Mr Sawer has put forward these proposals to try to counter the possible medicine shortages arising out of a "no deal Brexit". Speaking to the House of Commons Health Select Committee, the Director of an organisation representing large medicines wholesalers called for emergency powers so medicines could be "managed more appropriately" in the UK.

Under the suggestion, pharmacists could change the medicine prescribed without referring back to the GP. Removing the prohibition on wholesale activity could also increase fluidity in the supply of medicines.

Mr Sawer said that if a no deal Brexit looked likely in early 2019, then patients should consider stockpiling their own medicines so that they do not go without.

The UK Government has already been discussing with pharma suppliers the need to stockpile an additional six weeks’ worth of medicines, but many do not have the capacity or funds to do so. Concerns have also been raised that six weeks' worth of stockpiling may not be sufficient. If Mr Sawer is right and patients start to stockpile their own medicines, that will further exacerbate the demand and lack of supply.

That is why further emergency measures should be considered, and fast - to avoid catastrophic consequences if patients cannot get hold of their medicines.


We will be holding a PING (Pharmaceutical Industry Network Group) Conference, in association with EMIG, on 3 April 2019, just after Brexit date, on how Brexit is affecting the pharma supply chain.

If you are interested in attending the event, please contact Paul Gershlick in our Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences team on 01923 919 320.