Wednesday, August 14, 2013

UK - Pharmacists hit back at Howe's call for proof of harm from shortages

Pharmacists have rebuffed pharmacy minister Earl Howe's call for them to prove that medicines shortages are causing patient harm, claiming they have already sent enough evidence for the government to treat it as a priority.

Earl Howe reiterated his claim that the government's approach to shortages was "the right one" and challenged pharmacists to provide proof that supply problems were causing patients serious harm, rather than inconvenience, in an exclusive interview with C+D last week (July 30).

But pharmacists said the government was "completely naive" to think that shortages were not harming patients and questioned what else pharmacy bodies could do to persuade the minister of the seriousness of supply problems.

As well as direct harm, shortages could undermine medicines optimisation strategies by making patients feel that pharmacists did not take the supply of their medicines seriously, he added.

Pharmacy Voice said it had submitted robust data to the government about the impact of shortages on patients "months ago".

"It reveals widespread and frequent incidents of patient distress, which ought to be quite enough for the Department of Health to treat the matter as a priority," said Pharmacy Voice spokesperson Gareth Jones.

Mike Hewitson, owner of Beaminster Pharmacy, Dorset, said it was "completely naive" to think that shortages did not cause harm. "For some people, anxiety is as much a cause of harm and distress as physical symptoms," he told C+D.

Last week, CPWY and Leeds local medical committee expressed disappointment with the response they received from the Department of Health to their joint letter calling for "firm action" on shortages.

Pharmacy leaders hit back at Earl Howe in November last year when he told the all-party pharmacy group that the government's approach to shortages was "working well". He was also "not aware" of the shortages causing patient harm, he said at the time.

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