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Joint letter implores government to allow pharmacists to alter prescriptions

A joint letter co-signed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs, patient group National Voices and others has called for the UK government to change the law regarding pharmacists’ powers to alter prescriptions.

The letter, addressed to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, asks for pharmacists to be able to alter prescriptions to reduce the impact of medicine shortages on patient care.

Currently, community pharmacists are not able to amend original prescriptions for even minor adjustments, and are legally obliged to contact prescribers or refer patients back to prescribers instead.

This means that patients can experience delays in access to medicines if the specified quantity, strength or formulation of a medicine is in short supply, with pharmacists being unable to offer a different version of the same medicine as an alternative.

“Such substitutions are routine for pharmacists in secondary care. They are used in Scotland for medicines on a recognised shortages list. In Wales, the All Wales Pharmacist Enabling and Therapeutic Switch Policy enables pharmacists to make certain changes without contacting the prescriber,” the letter details.

The letter also calls on the government to actively work with stakeholders to implement changes before the end of the UK transition from the EU at the end of this year to reduce disruption to patient care.

“We urgently need this change ahead of the triple whammy of a second wave of coronavirus, the flu season and a potential no-deal Brexit, all of which would again place heavy demands on the medicines supply chain and primary care services,” said Sandra Gidley, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

“Pharmacists are experts in medicines and need greater flexibility under the law to make simple changes to prescriptions that help patients get the medicines they need when they need them. It makes no sense to have to turn patients away without their medicine when the answer could literally be sitting on the shelf,” she added.