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New safety regulations from pharmacies

Pharmacies have introduced new safety precautions and regulations for prescriptions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.The rules include a maximum of two months’ supply of medicine for chronic conditions and an extension from five days’ emergency supply of medication for chronic conditions to 30 days’ supply.The Pharmacy Council, the professional body that registers and regulates pharmacists, has extended the measures throughout May or “until further notice”, a Ministry of Health spokeswoman said yesterday.Jennifer Lightbourne, a pharmacist at Northshore Medical and Aesthetics Centre in Devonshire, explained: “When the mandate was given for the airport to close, there was an unprecedented increase in demand for some medicines.“Within one week, I had dispensed four months’ worth of salbutamol stock, the inhaler used in asthma.”Dr Lightbourne said inhalers were not “the only medication to fly off the shelf”.The rush on medication had made it difficult for her to dispense a full three-month supply.She added; “This was compounded by one of the insurance companies making an announcement to allow customers six-months supply of medications.“We were never able to accommodate this because it is just not feasible in a small pharmacy with limited shelf space.“In order to preserve stock, I would not have dispensed this amount unless a customer was travelling abroad for this period of time.”Dr Lightbourne said that pharmacists had grown “very concerned” that supplies would run short if people continued to request their prescriptions early.She added: “We asked the council to provide guidance for us to follow so that we could be unified in our approach on how to best deal with this extraordinary event.”The health ministry spokesman said the Pharmacy Council had mandated that:• A maximum of two months’ supply of prescriptions for chronic conditions would be dispensed at any one time, given that patients’ last refill of the same medication had less than a 30-day supply left, based on pharmacy prescription files• The transfer of prescriptions from one pharmacy to another now requires verbal confirmation of the quantity and date of last refill• The “emergency supply option” has been extended from a five-day supply to a 30-day supply for medicine for chronic conditions• An emergency supply is not allowed for any controlled drug, antibiotics or any short-term therapyThe regulations will be reassessed at the end of the month.The ten-day supply normally approved for verbal prescriptions from doctors to pharmacists has also been extended to allow a 30-day supply.Dr Lightbourne said she was “very grateful” for the 30-day supply order and the new emergency supply rules.She added: “This, along with pharmacies delivering medications free of charge directly to customers, has meant that many people have not had to leave their homes unnecessarily during lockdown. “Businesses have also avoided the overlapping of pharmacists and technicians to avoid passing on the virus between staff resulting in longer working hours without breaks on particular days in order to preserve a continuous service to the public.”