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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 269 No 7226 p781
30 November 2002

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  Smoking cessation
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  The Society

Letters to the Editor

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Patient information

Manufacturers should provide extra leaflets

Where was the Society?

A united front would have been better

Manufacturers should provide extra leaflets

From Mr S. Whitaker, MRPharmS

In response to Stephen Lutener's answer to a letter from G. J. Weaver (PJ, 23 November, p744), it ought to be pointed out that most community pharmacies do not have internet access and will be unable to download patient information leaflets.

Among those who do have access to the internet, only a minority will have a high definition printer (inkjet or laser) capable of printing out the documents they download. Most pharmacies still operate entirely on dot matrix printers.

Although few pharmacies have internet access, even fewer have photocopiers. Many pharmacies have fax machines capable of rudimentary copying, but copying on to thermal fax paper is far from ideal, because the print fades when exposed to light or heat.

I am sure that most readers will realise the futility of trying to encourage prescribers to prescribe only pack size quantities. Clearly, allowing us to "round up" is the only realistic solution to this problem, although I acknowledge that, sadly, it is probably the least likely.

A suitable interim measure would be for manufacturers to include extra PILs in their packs. This happens now with many bulk packs, but there needs to be a realisation among manufacturers of "pseudo-patient packs" such that packs like the Buccastem mentioned by Mr Weaver can be split.

Simon Whitaker
Bicester, Oxfordshire

Where was the Society?

From Mr D. L. Coleman, FRPharmS

I was pleased to see the large number of pharmaceutical bodies that have made representations against the Medicines Control Agency proposals which suggest the photocopying of patient information leaflets. I notice the Royal Pharmaceutical Society is not included in that list. This I am sure must be an oversight.

If, incredibly, the Society has not objected I am at a loss for words. Is it conceivable that in a year or so the Society in its regulatory function will be overseeing the photocopying of leaflets by pharmacists and reprimanding those who fail to do so? And in that light, is it conceivable that the Society has not objected?

The whole issue of split and snipped packs has been rumbling on for over a decade. It is a professional matter. It is a matter in which all bodies in pharmacy must say to the Government, "You have had enough time, you are jeopardising patients interests, you are making a laughing stock of our pharmaceutical supply service and all you can come up with is photocopying patient leaflets". On refection I guess if we wait a bit there will be arrangements to photocopy the original pack (which has the batch numbers and expiry date on it ) and even the split tablet foils.

David Coleman
North Walsham, Norfolk

A united front would have been better

From Mr M. P Smith, MRPharmS

I was pleased to see The Pharmaceutical Journal acknowledging the joint response to MLX 285 (PJ, 9 November, p666). However I would like to make the following comments. First, the National Pharmaceutical Association, the Company Chemists Association and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee are not and never have been wholesalers or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals. It would have been more accurate to report that the majority of the bodies representing the pharmaceutical profession endorsed the document.

This brings me to my second point that the only body whose support was absent from this joint response was the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. As you quite rightly report, the reply of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the joint response was based on patient safety considerations. It is therefore difficult to understand why the Society believed it could not put its name to this document.

I am sure that the response of the rest of the bodies representing pharmacy will carry weight, but it would have been better for the whole of the pharmaceutical profession to have presented a united front on this ill-conceived document.

Mel Smith
Industrial Pharmacists Group,
Royal Pharmaceutical Society


STEPHEN LUTENER, head of professional conduct, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, replies:

The Society is in a different position from the other bodies that signed the joint letter in that it is also a regulatory body and, crucially with respect to the consultation, it has an enforcement role under the medicines legislation. It could not, in those circumstances, sign up to the whole of the response.

The Society has, though, responded in similar terms to the consultation document on photocopying of patient information leaflets. The Society's position is that patients should have access to patient information leaflets, in order to be fully informed, but that photocopying leaflets is not a practicable means of complying with the 1994 Regulations.

Mr Smith and Mr Coleman can be assured that there has been no oversight and that the Society will continue to co-operate with the other bodies, the Medicines Control Agency and the Department of Health to resolve the problems pharmacists face in providing patient leaflets.

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