MHRA lifts strike-off threat over syringe drivers

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has effectively lifted the threat of being struck off from nurses unwittingly breaking the law by combining drugs in a syringe driver.

The reprieve has been announced while the regulator seeks changes to the Medicines Act through the Commission on Human Medicines, after Independent Nurse revealed in July that nurses mixing drugs in this way were at risk.

But experts are still advising nurses to use a clinical management plan (CMP) for palliative care patients taking mixed drugs.
The MHRA said last week it will look leniently on nurses prescribing or giving combined medicines in line with ‘long standing accepted practice’.

The news is welcome for thousands of nurses who are technically in breach of the Medicines Act 1968 because mixing licensed drugs creates a new unlicensed medicine. Doctors are allowed to prescribe unlicensed drugs but non-medical practitioners are not.

The MHRA protection covers nurses who prescribe, provide directions to others to administer, or who give mixed drugs. Drugs are often mixed in syringe drivers for terminal care and nebulisers for severe asthmatics.

The agency will not pursue ‘breaches of medicines legislation by a nurse or pharmacist independent prescriber’ while it seeks to alter the law.

However, every case will be looked at individually.

‘The MHRA recognises that palliative care requires special consideration and we would not wish to obstruct the provision of effective pain relief,’ the agency says.

  • For the full story, see this week’s Independent Nurse

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