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News in brief

 The Pharmaceutical Journal Vol 266 No 7131 p68-70
January 20, 2001


Steps towards the launch of medicines management
Telemedicine website launched
US kills parallel import bill
New opportunity for inventive pharmacists
PSNC to be led by non-pharmacists?
Medicines Act committee members wanted
PSNC highlights Health and Social Care Bill concerns
Pharmacist appointed Lord-Lieutenant
Guardian features pharmacy
Boots to appoint clinical governance head
Wales consults on NRT prescribing

Steps towards the launch of medicines management

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Telemedicine website launched

A website dedicated to providing information about telemedicine has been launched by the British Library (

Sponsored by the Department of Health, the website includes details of more than 120 telemedicine projects being undertaken in the United Kingdom. None of them appears to involve pharmacy.

The objective of the telemedicine information service is to bring together those who are working in telemedicine in the United Kingdom, to encourage them to share information and their experience and to provide an information resource for the field.

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US kills parallel import bill

The United States government has killed off a programme which would have allowed American pharmacies and wholesalers to import approved pharmaceutical products from other countries.

The outgoing US secretary of health and human services (Dr Donna Shalala) wrote to President Bill Clinton on December 27, 2000, saying that the International Prescription Drug Pricing Act, signed into law by President Clinton on October 28, 2000, had at least three flaws or loopholes.

?These flaws undermine the potential for cost savings associated with prescription drug reimportation and could pose unnecessary public health risks,? Dr Shalala wrote.

Among the flaws she identified were a rule which would allow US manufacturers to block importers from using the government-approved labels necessary for any prescription drug sold in the US, and one which could have allowed manufacturers to force importers to sell the drugs at high prices.

In addition, the import programme was limited to five years? duration which would have discouraged wholesalers from making the investment necessary to test and distribute imported drugs.

Shortly before the Act was approved by Congress, a clause was inserted which allowed the secretary of health and human services to veto the programme if it did not show significant reductions in cost to consumers or if it posed additional risks.

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New opportunity for inventive pharmacists

Pharmacists who contribute their skills and expertise to the development of new treatments in the National Health Service may be able to reap some personal benefit as a result of changes to be introduced through the Health and Social Care Bill (PJ, January 6, p5).

Clauses in the Bill propose amendments to the Health and Medicines Act 1988 and the NHS Act 1977 which will allow NHS trusts and health authorities to form, or participate in the formation of, companies.

In a statement on January 11, the Minister for Health (Mr John Denham) said that the change meant that innovators would be personally rewarded for their work and that this would encourage them to remain within the NHS. He said that the value of the intellectual property would be the only investment in companies which the NHS would make. The funds to take ideas into production would be provided by venture capitalists. NHS trusts would benefit from a percentage of any sales income.

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PSNC to be led by non-pharmacists?

Major changes approved by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee for the way it operates mean that the leadership of the organisation may be entrusted to non-pharmacists.

At a press briefing on January 14, Mr Dove explained that leading the organisation, which represents the interests of pharmacy contractors in negotiation with the Department of Health, would be vested in a chief executive officer and a non-executive chairman. Neither position needed to be filled by a pharmacist, although it was hoped that one or the other would be.

Mr Axon is to retire at the end of July and Mr Dove has indicated willingness only to continue as chairman until a non-executive replacement can be found.

The new chief executive, who is to receive a six-figure remuneration package, will be expected to lead the PSNC?s negotiations at all levels of Government and the National Health Service. The post is advertised on pA40 (PJ, January 20).

The new non-executive chairman will not be a member of the PSNC and will be expected to chair meetings and help build and foster relationships with NHS organisations and others.

Explaining his decision to take early retirement, Mr Axon said: ?The Government?s plan for pharmacy and the NHS is a 10-year plan. The PSNC needs someone who can carry on for a 10-year period. The committee has laid down a broad structure and it is for the new people to decide how it works.?

Mr Dove added: ?We want a smooth changeover with minimum effect on contractors. The changes will not affect the broad thrust of negotiations, but they will affect tactics and strategy.?

At the same time as approving these changes, the PSNC has re-arranged its sub-committee structure. Rather than appoint subcommittees and have those groups elect their own chairmen, as in the past, chairmen are now elected directly by the PSNC and then meet as a group with PSNC officers to appoint the subcommittee members.

The new subcommittees and their chairmen are:

  • contracts and planning (Neil Maxwell)
  • marketing and public affairs (Allen Tweedie)
  • audit and review (Roy Carrington)
  • resource development and finance (Steven Williams)
  • strategic planning and policy (Phil Parry).

Asked whether he intended to continue as a PSNC member, Mr Dove said that he intended to seek renomination by the National Pharmaceutical Association if he retained his seat on the NPA board. He added that he would be a candidate in the forthcoming election for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society?s Council.

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Medicines Act committee members wanted

Nominations and applications are being sought by the Government for membership of the advisory committees established under the Medicines Act 1968 and two review panels. The bodies involved are the Medicines Commission, the Committee on Safety of Medicines, the Advisory Board on the Registration of Homoeopathic Products, the British Pharmacopoeia Commission, the Independent Review Panel on Advertising of Medicines and the Independent Review Panel on the Classification of Borderline Medicines.

An information pack is available from
Judith Thompson
Room 16-137
Market Towers
1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8 5NQ

Completed applications are required by March 16. Details can be found in the ?what?s new? section of the MCA website (

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PSNC highlights Health and Social Care Bill concerns

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has highlighted a number of concerns it has about the Health And Social Care Bill, which received its second reading in Parliament on January 11.

At a press briefing following the PSNC?s January meeting, its chairman (Mr Wally Dove) said that the committee was particularly concerned about the effect of the Bill?s provisions on existing pharmacy contractors and on current rules on the granting of new pharmacy contracts.

There was concern that the provisions for the new local pharmaceutical services (LPS) scheme did not include a requirement to consult local pharmaceutical committees before they were implemented, Mr Dove said. If amendments to the Bill were not made, the PSNC would seek to ensure that regulations to implement LPS schemes included a consultation provision.

On the positive side, the committee was pleased that the Bill would enable the provision of services across health authority boundaries. The provision of oxygen services to patients who lived in a different health authority area to their chosen pharmacy had always been problematic and minor relocations across borders were not permitted at all, even when they entailed premises on opposite sides of the road.

The PSNC was also keen to find out what the Bill?s proposals for accreditation might mean. There was a provision for the accreditation of e-pharmacies, Mr Dove said. He understood that this would not involve the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Section 25 of the Bill provided for health authorities to prepare lists of pharmacists suitable to be employed in the provision of pharmaceutical services. This raised the question of how the Department of Health might co-ordinate a national database - a matter which would be of particular concern to pharmacy multiples.

Other matters of concern were the proposed power of patients? forums, which were to replace community health councils, to enter and inspect contractors? premises and the power of health authorities to suspend or remove professionals from their practitioners? lists.

Mr Dove said that it should be possible for single-handed contractors who were suspended to continue their businesses under locum arrangements. It would not be fair for people to lose their businesses during a period of suspension only to be cleared of any wrongdoing after a full investigation. Other matters considered at the January PSNC meeting are reported below.

The committee approved a report by its supervision working party and passed it to the National Pharmaceutical Association, Company Chemists Association and Co-operative Technical Panel for comment. The report would be published in February.

LPC constitution
A new model constitution for LPCs was approved which allowed the co-option of pharmacists to fill committee vacancies for contractors where contractors were unwilling to take places.

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Pharmacist appointed Lord-Lieutenant

Mr Alexander Matheson, FRPharmS, has been appointed Lord-Lieutenant for the Western Isles. Mr Matheson has been a deputy lieutenant since 1993 and has been Vice-Lord Lieutenant since 1994. He was made OBE in the Queen?s birthday honours list in 1990.

Thirty years ago, Mr Matheson became the youngest provost of Stornoway town council, aged 29 years. He was appointed to the Western Isles health board in 1973 and became its chairman in 1993, a post he still holds. Other chairmanships held by Mr Matheson include Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commission and his family business Roderick Smith Ltd.

In March, he is to become chairman of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.

Mr Matheson was awarded fellowship of the Society in 1993.

He has also been convener of the Western Isles council and a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society?s Scottish Executive.

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Guardian features pharmacy

If the Government is concerned about the protection of local communities and addressing social exclusion it will need to consider carefully the effects of its policies on local, independent community pharmacies, says a Guardian feature published on January 17.

Richard Lewis, a King?s Fund health policy institute visiting fellow, says that the future is bleak for small independents. Proprietors, who are getting older, are locked into their businesses and young pharmacists are unwilling to invest in the current environment of fees and discount clawback which discriminate against small operators.

The author says that there are signs that the pharmacy plan might make a difference. However, he notes that plans for 500 one-stop primary care centres and the breaking down of controls over new pharmacy contracts might increase competition and push small independents over the edge.

?Many industries go through fundamental restructuring,? Mr Lewis writes. ?Why not let the market take its course? A key policy objective of the Government and the Department of Health is better access to health services, particularly for the disadvantaged.

?The worst case scenario would be an uncontrolled contraction of community pharmacies, with disastrous consequences for patients. Even the large multiples are not immune; Boots is closing dozens of smaller high street branches in favour of new out-of-town sites. Loss of pharmacies would particularly hit elderly people and those without cars. And the chemist shop may often be the linchpin in already vulnerable local high street parades.?

An associated column included with the feature highlights the effect on small pharmacies of the possible abolition of resale price maintenance.

It quotes a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society?s Council (Dr Gillian Hawksworth): ?If we lose RPM, we could lose community pharmacy altogether - and it is actually the building block on which the success of Government plans depends.?

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Boots to appoint clinical governance head

Boots the Chemists Ltd is to appoint a head of clinical governance to be responsible for developing and implementing a clinical governance strategy for the company.

The post-holder will report to Boots?s assistant pharmacy superintendent (Mr Steve Churton). The role will include reviewing existing pharmacy systems, designing quality management systems and developing best practice for clinical governance.

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Wales consults on NRT prescribing

The Welsh Assembly has started six weeks of consultation on a proposal to allow all nicotine replacement treatments to be prescribed on the National Health Service by general medical practitioners. Currently, some, but not all, NRT products are on the black list of products that may not be prescribed by GPs.

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Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20004013

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