We know how important it is for you to be able to access your regular medication and that stories in the media about supply shortages, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, will inevitably lead to worry and stress.
As a leading online pharmacy, we have had many patients approach us with questions about what is happening, how they might be affected and what they can do to minimise any disruption.
We wanted to share some answers to the most frequently asked questions here, so that you have the full picture.
While none of us know the final outcome of Brexit and the impact that will have, please rest assured that your local pharmacy teams are working tirelessly behind the scenes, to minimise any negative impact on you and your access to vital medication.
Q: Why can’t I access my regular medication?
A: Brexit aside, there are many reasons why a pharmacy may not be able to obtain certain medicines. These can vary from issues on the side of the manufacturer, to transport problems or ingredient shortages.
Those same issues still apply in our current climate. The uncertainty around Brexit has exacerbated the situation as, despite being told not to, some pharmacies and patients have been stockpiling medication, leading to shortages.
Q: What can I do if my local pharmacy is unable to supply my regular medication?
A: Should you experience any difficulties accessing your regular prescription medication via your preferred pharmacy don’t panic. Just because one pharmacy has a limited supply does not mean the same is true for another pharmacy, so shop around.
Supermarket concessions are often well stocked and online pharmacies can be a good option. If you are shopping online, make sure the pharmacy has the logos of the official regulatory bodies, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency).
Q: I can access my medication online, but I am concerned that the online pharmacy I am looking at might not be legitimate.
A: Over the past two years, the regulators have been working tirelessly to ensure online pharmacies meet the high standards they expect for patients.
Those pharmacies that are deemed as providing the gold standard of care will carry the requisite logos from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency)
In addition they will have been assessed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and you will be able to click on their full report. Our report can be accessed here as an example.
Q: Is there anything I can do to proactively secure my medication supply in the event of disruption resulting from a no-deal Brexit?
A: Ask your GP to prescribe the generic rather than the branded version of your medication. Pharmaceutical companies attribute a name or brand to a medicine to increase its appeal to the consumer.
There is no difference between generic and branded medication however, because branded medication is produced by one manufacturer, whereas generic medication is produced by multiple manufacturers, supply shortages are less likely to affect generic versions of the medicine.
While the rules on dispensing are likely to change in the event of a no deal Brexit (see the next question), Pharmacists must dispense inline with what has been prescribed. As such, requesting a generic version from the outset can help simplify the process.
Q: Can I process my prescription in advance?
A: Planning is everything. While we are actively advising against stockpiling, which can itself impact supplies, we strongly recommend that you have your prescription and that you process it in plenty of time, but no more than seven days in advance.
If you usually leave it to the last minute, and your regular pharmacy is out of stock, you run the risk of delayed access to your medication and the associated stress that comes with it.
Q: What if my pharmacy is out of my regular medication, is there anything else they can do to help?
A: Yes. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) plans to extend the remit of pharmacists, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to enable them to dispense alternative medicines without having to contact a GP.
Known as Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs), pharmacists will be given clear guidance on which alternatives (eg a different strength or formulation) could be dispensed, under what circumstances, for which patients and over what period.
These medicines may look different, tablets for example, may be a different size, shape or colour, but they will still contain the same active ingredients prescribed by your doctor. If you have any queries about your medicines, talk to your pharmacist.
Q: What are you doing to help?
A: OxfordOnlinePharmacy is part of the Frosts Pharmacy Group. As well as the online dispensing arm of the business, we have three bricks and mortar chemists which means we can physically move supplies between our different premises to meet demand.
We also work with a number of different leading suppliers and manufacturers to minimise disruption to supply. While some of the supply issues relating to Brexit are outside of our control, we are working with GPs and closely following DHSC guidance to ensure all of our pharmacists have the tools at their disposal to support our patients.