Priti Patel's proposed measures will “help secure access to controlled drugs within the healthcare system in a pandemic and where there is a serious risk to human health.” (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images).

The Home Office has been proposing emergency legislation in the wake of the coronavirus crisis which could allow pharmacists to supply some controlled drugs without needing a prescription.

In a letter dated Wednesday (April 1) Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) Owen Bowden-Jones to respond to the proposals by Friday.

The new legislation, if enforced, would allow pharmacists to supply drugs in Schedules 2 and 3 and Part 1 of Schedule 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, provided the patient receives them as part of their ongoing treatment. It would not affect Schedule 1 drugs.

Patel wrote that the proposed measures would “help secure access to controlled drugs within the healthcare system in a pandemic and where there is a serious risk to human health. They will ensure patients continue to have access to medicines critical for ongoing treatment, build resilience and help relieve pressure elsewhere in the health system.”

The letter said since there was “a significant risk of supply shortages” due to the impact of Covid-19 on the supply chain, the proposals would also include supply of controlled drugs under a Serious Shortage Protocol (SSP).

“Pharmacists would only supply under an SSP at their professional discretion and in cases where they deem it reasonable and appropriate for the patient and would refer any complex cases back to a prescriber,” the stated.

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