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NHS drugs: Welsh health boards deny selling medicines overseas

Category: Wales

Published: 25th Jun 2012 14:46:07

Welsh health boards have rejected suggestions they have sold medicine to other countries to maximise profits.

Russell Goodway, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Wales, said he heard reports the practice had occurred.

But all boards to respond so far denied it happened, as the Welsh government voiced concern about drug shortages.

Mr Goodway's comments came after research by MP Huw Irranca-Davies found patients with life-threatening conditions struggled to find drugs.

Mr Irranca-Davies's research found that patients in 80% of health trusts in England and Wales had difficulty obtaining drugs for common but serious illnesses.

He has called for action over medicine shortages which he said were caused by lucrative exports to European countries.

Manufacturers have a quota system which is supposed to ensure enough medicine is available for NHS patients.

However Mr Goodway said changes to the way drugs were sourced had contributed to the problem.

It goes without saying there is a shortage of product”

"Historically the British market has been supplied by importing medicines from Greece and Spain, and European Union countries.

"It goes without saying there is a shortage of product. A quota is where the manufacturer estimates on historic data what a pharmacy will need in order to supply their patients.

"Say, for instance, you got through 20 units of a product per month, but 10 of those units were supplied by importing - the manufacturer will believe that you're only actually requiring 10 because that's what you've been buying in the UK market, so now you've got a quota for 10.

"Now you can't import because the change in the exchange rate etc, you're short of product and they're not increasing the amount of medicine coming into the market."

Mr Goodway also alleged that Welsh boards were among those in the research who had exported medicines to "make money and balance their books," - a practice which is legal.

All seven health boards in Wales - Cardiff and Vale University, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Powys, Cwm Taf, Aneurin Bevan, Hywel Dda and Betsi Cadwaladr - told the Welsh government's chief pharmacist Professor Roger Walker that they had never sold medicines overseas.

The Welsh government said: "We have ongoing concerns about the shortages of drugs, and are keen to work alongside the Department of Health to address this problem.

"We recognise the extremely hard work of community pharmacists and feel that the quota system is hampering them in their efforts."

Mr Irranca-Davies, the Ogmore MP, submitted his freedom of information request after a woman in his constituency said she was told the breast cancer drug she had on prescription was out of stock.

The MP said quotas had failed, and called on the UK government to give NHS patients priority over exports.

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BBC News, 2012. NHS drugs: Welsh health boards deny selling medicines overseas [Online] (Updated 25th Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1436754/NHS-drugs-Welsh-health-boards-deny-selling-medicines-overseas [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]

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