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Parallel export of medicines restricted to curb shortages

Restrictions will apply to 19 hormone replacement products and five other medicines

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 03 October 2019

The government has placed restrictions on the export of all variations of HRT products and some other medicines, because of shortages of some products due to manufacturing issues.

The restrictions will stop medicine wholesalers from "parallel exporting", where they buy medicines meant for UK patients and sell them on for a higher price in another country.

Nineteen HRT drugs will be subject to export restrictions to ensure that alternatives remain available for the HRT drugs that are in short supply. Similar measures are in place in other European countries, including France and Spain.

The restrictions will also apply to five further medicines, including all adrenaline auto-injectors and hepatitis B vaccines.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has written to holders of wholesale dealer licences to tell them that the government will exercise its powers to stop "parallel exporting" of medicines that are needed for UK patients. Companies that parallel export a medicine that is on the list of medicines to which restrictions apply may face action from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The government has also introduced serious shortage protocols for the antidepressant fluoxetine, to further protect UK patients from medicine shortages. This means pharmacists can supply an alternative strength or pharmaceutical form of fluoxetine when patients have a prescription for the 10mg, 30mg and 40mg capsules, which are currently in shortage.

The serious shortage protocol will be in place while manufacturing issues mean the drug is temporarily in short supply, to ease pressure on the supply chain.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “The new measures we’re introducing today will help us ensure patients get the medicines they need and the high-quality care they deserve.”

Dr Rick Greville, director of supply chain at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “The decision to take precautionary measures to protect medicines supplies will be very much welcomed by our members. It means that these stockpiles of medicines which companies have built over previous months are better protected and available for use only by the NHS patients for which they were intended. Companies can now work with the department to identify any problem areas.”

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