A survey by Pharmacy Voice has found that 88% of people think that drug manufacturers should be under a legal obligation to guarantee uninterrupted supply of life saving prescription medicines in the same way that water and electricity companies are under a legal obligation to provide a minimum level of service to customers.
The results are being released after MPs debated the issue of medicines supply in the House of Commons (Thursday 24 November).
Speaking at the debate, Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies, said pharmacists were spending increasing time calling suppliers to replenish stocks.
He said: "If they are doing that they aren't doing the front-of-counter service we want in terms of helping people with minor ailments."
Pharmacists are worried that if a solution is not found urgently then there will be a serious risk of significant patient harm.
Pharmacist Chris Howland-Harris from Ashgrove Pharmacy in Bristol said:
“We spend about 45 minutes every day trying to source stock. That’s time we could be spending with patients. Medicine delays cause considerable inconvenience for pharmacists and leave patients feeling distressed and anxious. In some cases patients have had to go without medication for a few days.”
Ian Facer, Chairman of Pharmacy Voice said:
“Medicines are not ordinary items of commerce, because prompt and reliable supply is necessary to wellbeing. A failure of supply has potentially serious consequences, as in the case of patients taking medicines for cancer, so new legal obligations on manufacturers should be considered. Our survey shows that people support the principle of legally binding service obligations. They understand that in some circumstances medicines are as essential as the water they drink and the power they use to heat their homes.”
Numerous governments across Europe have decided that existing EU regulations alone are insufficient to ensure that medicines promptly reach the patients that need them. Germany, France, Italy and others have introduced a Patient Service Obligation (PSO), incorporating supply obligations for manufacturers and wholesalers.
The full debate can be found online www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2011-11-24a.563.0&s=huw#g567.0