The Secretary of State has amended legislation to facilitate access to medicines during an influenza pandemic.

To ensure cost is not a barrier to people seeking treatment during a pandemic, the provisions:

  • remove the requirement to charge patients where drugs are supplied by NHS bodies to treat pandemic influenza; and
  • remove the requirement to charge overseas visitors for treatment of influenza during a pandemic.

Changes have also been made to the regulations that govern how prescription-only medicines are sold and supplied during a pandemic or if a pandemic is threatened as follows:

  • a pharmacist can sell or supply drugs without a prescription. The conditions for doing this are that the patient has been prescribed the drug before, that the dosage is appropriate and only 30 days supply of medicines are provided;
  • a pharmacist can sell prescription only medicines at the request of a dentist who is unable to furnish a prescription; and
  • medicines may be supplied in accordance with a protocol approved by the Secretary of State and other ministers of health, the Health Protection Agency or certain NHS bodies.

Finally, amendments have been made to legislation to facilitate distribution and use of certain medicines during a pandemic:

  • those holding a wholesale dealer’s licence may distribute unlicensed products used to treat pandemic influenza or threatened pandemic influenza;
  • labelling requirements for sale of antivirals to children under 1 have been relaxed; and
  • notification of urgent safety measures being taken during clinical trials must be given to the licensing authority and the ethics committee during the pandemic.

The regulations can be accessed here, here and here.