NHS trust made £300 000 by selling drugs to wholesaler for exportBMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c1072 (Published 22 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1072
All rapid responses
Over recent weeks we have been struck by a new, sinister development
which appears to have resulted from the credit crunch. Several patients
from different geographical areas were contacting us about the same
problem. They were unable to obtain essential drugs such as pulmozyme
(dornase alfa) from their local pharmacies due to a ‘supply’ problem.
However, the manufacturers reported no such problem and stated there were
no known shortages in the UK.
It appears that the strong euro and low pound have created the
perfect conditions for manufacturers, pharmacies, wholesalers and even NHS
trusts to sell their high value medication stocks to the European market.
It is this practice, known as parallel exporting, which appears to have
had a major contribution to the present UK supply problems. Parallel
exporting has been recognised by the Department of Health who have
produced a document reminding all parties in the supply chain of their
legal and ethical obligations1.
Clearly our knowledge on international finance was not up to scratch
and we naively assumed that the health service was in place to provide
high quality care and not a free market for profiteering.
Our patients with cystic fibrosis who were denied medication have had
their health unnecessarily jeopardised and those responsible are most
likely in breach of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain’s
Code of Ethics which requires pharmacists to make the care of patients
their first concern2.
Kate Williams, Research Registrar
Daniel Peckham, Lead for Respiratory Medicine
Regional Adult Cystic Fibrosis Unit, St James’s Hospital, Leeds LS9
1. Joint statement on key legal and ethical obligations for the
medicines' supply chain. Department of Health (2009).
2. Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain’s Code of Ethics for
Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians.
Competing interests: No competing interests