By Ellie Broughton
GPs have been blocked from issuing repeat prescriptions for Haelan tape after an EMIS coding change which has prompted complaints from scores of practices.
Haelan tape was moved into Part VIII of the drug tariff after the Department of Health re-categorized the product as ‘commonly-prescribed’. But the product was relisted by EMIS – the GP IT system used by over half of practices – on the electronic prescribing system under its generic name, fludroxycortide tape. Haelan tape was listed as ‘withdrawn’.
Over the last three weeks the manufacturer of the tape, Typharm, has received at least 50 calls from GPs, pharmacists and patients who wanted to know why the tape appeared to have been taken off the market.
Typharm has now been forced to write to all GP surgeries in the UK advising that their tape is still available under its generic name.
The letter reads: ‘Due to the re-categorisation of the product, when a prescriber enters a patient record and tries to re-issue Haelan Tape as a repeat, where the original prescription was issued prior to the changes made in February, the product will appear with the indicator “withdrawn”. This has led to concern amongst prescribers using the EMIS system, many of whom unaware of the new category status are concluding that the product has been discontinued.’
Marketing manager at Typharm, Jamna Owen, said: ‘At first we thought one of our rivals had put a rumour out that the product was withdrawn, but when we got in touch with EMIS they confirmed that there was a problem.’
A spokesperson for EMIS said the description of the product had been changed as a result of ‘implementing new requirements for NHS Connecting for Health for the standardized description of medication and devices via the Dictionary of Medicines and Devices’.
‘An obsolete description which did not match the current Dictorionary of Medicines and Devices requirements was taken off our picking list,’ she said. ‘The valid description has been available for over a year for GPs to select and prescribe.’
‘Every month, EMIS issues a detailed list to all its customers advising them of changes to product descriptions in the drug database so that they can easily find what they need. These communications ensure that our users are constantly updated about any changes.
‘The item remains available on the system and can be prescribed in a few simple steps.’
EMIS ‘withdraws’ prescription tape in coding error