Pharmacy leaders have given the green light to offer a scheme to 12,500 pharmacies from next month giving patients access to 13 medicines – such as salbutamol inhalers – without an individual prescription, despite GPs saying they had ‘significant concerns’.
The National Pharmacy Association confirmed the rollout of the scheme after the body was forced to rethink the scheme following an intervention from the chief pharmacist at the Department of Health.
In December, the antibiotics trimethoprim, doxycycline and ciprofloxacin were removed from the scheme after a meeting between chief pharmacist Dr Keith Ridge and the NPA about the effect on antimicrobial resistance.
Pulse has learnt the scheme will go ahead from the 1 February, including 13 drugs, such as azythromicin, sildenafil, the emergency contraception pill, anti-malarials, salbutamol and calcipotriol cream.
A spokesperson from the NPA said: ‘The scheme will be rolled out to NPA members from 1 February, though we don’t expect all members to take it up.’
But Dr Daryl Freeman, a GPSI in Norfolk, said she had ‘significant concerns’ about patients obtaining these medicines without a prescription.
She said: ‘I have significant concerns about all those medicines being included, apart from the emergency contraceptive pill. Calcipotriol cream is not something you need urgently, or is difficult to get from the GP surgery.
‘There are often underlying medical issues – such as diabetes – for erectile dysfunction, so we shouldn’t be handing out Viagra without the checks a GP would run. For salbutamol inhalers, there are widely-discussed issues about control and ensuring the patients are being monitored.
She added: ‘Azythromicin isn’t the most commonly used antibiotic, so why is it included? Antibiotics shouldn’t be made more widely available. It doesn’t make sense when GPs and healthcare professionals are being sent emails every day saying “Please monitor your antibiotic prescribing”.
‘It’s giving really mixed messages. It’ll make it more difficult for us when we turn around to patients and say “No, you’ve got a viral illness so I can’t give you antibiotics.”’