Medicines supply chain toolkit

The NPA, through it's medicine supply chain task group seeks to ensure pharmacies get better information on what is happening in the supply chain and that the blame for any shortage is not unfairly laid at the door of any pharmacy. As well as rebalancing of the relationships in the supply chain such that pharmacies are empowered.

Current issues with the medicines supply chain

There are a number of obstacles to a smooth-running supply chain:

  • The rise of generic medicines and a globalised supply chain mean some medicines are made only in one or two factories across the world. If there is a problem at one of those factories, or a glitch in the transportation system, it is possible for the entire stock of particular medicines to become unavailable for months
  • The quota system used by some branded medicine manufacturers to try to restrict the trading of medicines within the European free market
  • Wholesalers applying surcharges that are massively out of proportion to the level of stock ordered

NPA support

Through the task group, we are seeking innovative improvements to processes and relationships in the supply chain. In our work, we have tried to capture specific issues and get down to the detail to find what we could do differently to help NPA Members.

As a result, the NPA has developed various resources to empower members to tackle the current malaise – delays, costs and damage to reputation:

  • A Medicines Supply Chain Toolkit – to equip NPA members to confront medicine supply problems affecting their pharmacy
  • Bi-Weekly shortages list – so that members have the most up-to-date information on problems in the supply chain
  • Wholesaler Service Standards – a platform for independents to share with each other experiences of good and poor practice by suppliers
  • Support videos – to support you tackle a range of issues

For advice on dealing with a particular medicine supply chain problem or if you would like to share a particular experience email

We are also lobbying nationally and internationally for a long-term solution in tackling the issues surrounding the medicine supply chain. The NPA has been:

  • Working with partners secured a statement from the Department of Health that manufacturers and wholesalers should supply medicines to pharmacies within 24 hours
  • Protected the reputation of community pharmacy by countering misleading media reports
  • Commissioned independent research which proved the significance of the medicine shortage problem and its impact on patients and on pharmacy. This was presented to a Parliamentary inquiry into medicine shortages
  • Provided advice to hundreds of members on how to deal with medicine supply chain problems; and contacted manufacturers on behalf of members to try and secure extra stocks of medicines
  • Raised our concerns about the medicines supply chain in the UK through our European trade association (Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union) and directly with the European Commission
  • Worked with other pharmacy bodies and the MHRA to preserve the ability to trade small amounts of stock between pharmacies
  • Lobbied Members of Parliament, asking them to put pressure on the Government to act on this problem
  • We continue in constructive dialogue with wholesalers and manufacturers, including as members of the Government-sponsored Medicines Supply Chain Forum

Progress on tackling the medicines supply chain so far…

  • Published the medicines supply chain toolkit, to equip NPA members to confront medicine supply problems affecting their pharmacy
  • Publish weekly shortages list so that members have the most up-to-date information on problems in the supply chain
  • Worked with representatives of wholesalers and manufacturers to get better information on medicine shortages to pharmacies at the time of ordering (including the reason for non-supply and time to resolution)
  • Through our membership of the pan-European pharmacy trade body (the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union) we were instrumental in the establishment of a new working group of pharmacy, wholesale and manufacturing representatives to try and improve supply chain communication and reduce the impact of what is often a global medicines supply problem
  • Published wholesaler service standards for consultation