Doctors are asking for clarity about plans to give pharmacists the ability to alter prescriptions of an anti-depressant drug in short supply under a new set of rules drawn up ahead of Brexit.
Supplies of some 10mg, 30mg and 40mg fluoxetine capsules will be unavailable over the coming months due to manufacturing issues.
Doctors’ union the BMA says patients need reassurance and GP practice teams need clarity about the change.
This comes as wholesalers are banned from exporting a list of other drugs to prevent shortages.
Fluoxetine is the first drug to be added to the serious shortage protocol, which was drawn up by UK ministers earlier this year in anticipation of medicine disruptions when the UK leaves the EU.
Pharmacists will be able to supply an alternative strength or pharmaceutical form of the anti-depressant. This protocol applies only to pharmacists working in England.
Regulations will be in place while manufacturing issues – expected to last into December for some capsules – continue.
Scotland’s chief pharmaceutical officer has advised healthcare professionals and community pharmacists to contact patients to see if they have enough of their prescription to last them until early November.
Dr Farah Jameel, a GP representative with the BMA, says patients need to be reassured changes “won’t have any adverse effects”.
“It’s vital that patients are protected from medicine shortages as much as possible, particularly as we head into the winter months – when pressure on NHS services is most intense – and uncertainty grows around the fallout of a potential no-deal Brexit.
The London doctor said the move was a “sensible measure in theory” but added “we have to be sure that it won’t add to GP workload or cause unnecessary confusion among practice teams.”
“The crux of the issue, however, is ensuring that problems concerning the manufacturing and supply of medicines are promptly addressed so that serious shortage protocols are only used as an absolute last resort and patients can continue to access the recommended forms of medication regardless of where they live.”