Pharmacists who export drugs 'neglect patient duty'

Medicines Northern Ireland GPC chairman slams export of drugs.

Drug shortages in the UK are a result of pharmacists neglecting their professional responsibility in a quest to make a 'fast buck', the BMA has told MPs.

GPC Northern Ireland chairman Dr Brian Dunn said that current medicine shortages were 'extremely frustrating' for GPs and patients.

Drug shortages are occurring because pharmacists are diverting medicines to overseas suppliers. Around 11 per cent of the UK's 12,600 pharmacies are exporting medicines intended for the UK market, along with a 'handful' of dispensing practices, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has said.

Dr Dunn told MPs at an All-Party Pharmacy Group meeting: 'Unfortunately what seems to have happened at certain points is that those who are doing this have forgotten their professional responsibility to supply a service to the patients of the UK.

'They are doing this just to make a fast buck.'

Richard Barker, director-general of the ABPI, added: 'If a pharmacist or a wholesaler diverts a product they know is intended for the UK market to make a short-term profit, we believe the MHRA and other authorities involved need to start reminding people pretty forcefully of their obligations.'

Dr Dunn said that the drug shortage problem needed a UK-wide solution. He asked whether it was appropriate for medicines supplied and manufactured for UK patients to be treated under trade agreements like other commodities.

Supplies of asthma treatments and oral contraceptives, as well as immunosuppressants, cardiovascular drugs and treatments for depression, epilepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have been hit.

Prescription drugs tend to be cheaper in the UK than elsewhere in Europe. This gap and the weak pound has incentivised wholesalers, pharmacists and dispensers to order extra stock and sell it overseas.


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