Sajid Javid is being urged to change the law to allow pharmacists to change prescriptions in the event of drug shortages, as it has emerged that some women are traveling hundreds of miles to seek out hormone replacement therapy products.
There have been acute shortages of certain HRT products, which are used by around 1 million women in the UK to treat menopausal symptoms.
Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said community pharmacists should be able to dispense alternative versions of prescription drugs without having to contact the prescriber – usually a GP – each time.
Currently the law in England says they only have to provide the exact prescription.
The proposed redesign would also allow pharmacists to make changes to the amounts, strength and formulation of HRT and other drugs dispensed.
“At the moment pharmacists cannot change HRT prescriptions, so they have to refer women to their GP when a drug is not available,” Anderson said. “Allowing pharmacists to do this will save time for patients, pharmacists and physicians, while reducing anxiety for women waiting for medication.”
On Sunday, Javid announced plans to appoint an HRT tsar to deal with shortages. The number of HRT products prescribed in England has more than doubled in the past five years, contributing to the depletion of supplies, while manufacturers have reported supply problems.
Some women share their prescriptions or travel hundreds of miles to stock up on products, and there are concerns that some women may become suicidal because their symptoms are not treated.
Anderson said she welcomed Javid’s plan to recruit an HRT czar, but added: ‘With continued concerns from patient groups about the supply of drugs for people with other conditions, this appointment must be part of a broader government strategy to ensure patient access to medicines.”
She said: “Pharmacists spend many hours dealing with drug shortages when we prefer to talk to patients about their care. One solution would be to allow pharmacists to make minor changes to a prescription if it is out of stock. It’s faster for patients and more efficient for the NHS.
“Difficulties in accessing HRT have an unfair impact on women, affect their mental health and worsen health inequalities – this is an area that not only affects our patients but also health and care staff. “
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents NHS community pharmacies in England, said demand exceeded supply for a small number of HRT drugs and longer prescriptions of 12 months were making the situation worse.
“Disruptions to drug supply can fluctuate very quickly and in very localized ways,” a PSNC spokesperson said. “The situation is very variable depending on demand, local prescriptions and existing stock levels in pharmacies, and it is difficult to get an overview of the state of supply because it is constantly changing in the supply chain. ‘supply.
“We know that some pharmacies are receiving HRT prescriptions from women and prescribers hundreds of miles away, but we have nothing to confirm if there is significant regional variation in supply.”
Janet Morrison, chief executive of PSNC, said: “The current disruption in the supply of some HRT medicines only appears to be affecting a small number of medicines, and most pharmacies are reporting that they are able to help quickly. women who need medication.
“The disruption appears to be due to a sudden increase in demand for certain drugs and some prescriptions being written for much longer periods than usual. It is extremely worrying for women not to be able to access the medicines they depend on. Pharmacy teams know this and will do everything possible to help you. In many cases other formulations may be available, although it may take some time for pharmacies to sort through as they will need to speak to your GP first.
Labor MP Carolyn Harris, co-chair of the UK Menopause Task Force, welcomed ministers’ pledges to address shortages. She said: “The problem with menopause is that for too long women have not been listened to, women have been ignored, they have been prescribed and diagnosed with other conditions and menopause has not even been considered. .”