Planned cuts in drug prices and a weak pound could leave the UK short of medicines and force GPs to dispense at a loss to ensure continuity of care for patients this winter.
Martin Sawer, chairman of the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers, believes the new price deal between the DoH and drug manufacturers is 'the straw that might break the system'.
He told GP: '1 January is the worst day you could choose to implement a change like this.'
Wholesalers have begun running down their stock due to the price cut, because there is no guarantee that manufacturers will refund money lost from buying medicines at a higher price in December and selling them at a lower price in January, he said.
Dispensing Doctors' Association vice-chairman Dr Allan Tennant said that, while he would reduce his stock holding, he would still have to dispense at a loss. 'I will pay that cost, because I am an ethical practitioner,' he said. 'My patients will not go without any medicines they need.'
Dr Bill Beeby, chairman of the GPC prescribing subcommittee, said he would be concerned if price changes led to patients being unable to obtain the medicines they require.
The impact of the price changes comes on top of other developments that have reduced stock held by UK pharmaceutical wholesalers. The increasing use of IT ordering systems has meant wholesalers hold less stock. In addition, shifting exchange rates have made imported drugs expensive, and export more attractive, increasing pressure on UK supplies.
David Fisher, commercial director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Indus-try, said manufacturers took supply obligations seriously and the association would discuss supply with individual wholesalers over the New Year period.
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