The Pharmacy of Your Choice Scheme would be rolling out new software that would list the expiry date of medicines on invoices for stocks delivered, according to a board member who spoke to The Shift News.
Pharmacies operating under the POYC scheme, which delivers free medicine from the government to the community, told The Shift News last week they were receiving medicine stocks beyond their patient needs and a new system about to be implemented may force them to foot the bill for expired medicines.
They said they were receiving stocks that were short-dated and argued that the government needed to implement EU guidelines for good distribution practice (GDP), which recommend that the expiry date is listed on invoices.
The Chamber of Pharmacists has backed calls by its members. The Shift News spoke to President Mary Ann Sant Fournier who said: “Of course, the Chamber does not feel that pharmacists and pharmacy owners should be held responsible for the expiration of short-dated delivered stock when this is no longer viable while still on the pharmacy shelves. A provision is in place to take this into account. The Kamra also notes that GDP guidelines are to be followed by the POYC Unit”.
A circular (PP 02/18) issued on 15 January required pharmacies to perform a stock take. It states: “Those pharmacies which present accounting discrepancies that go beyond 0.75% of 1% of their overall allocated stock holding value after 1 April will be considered as defaulting and will be held liable and responsible for the losses”.
The GRTU representative on the POYC board, Mario Debono, said a new software on trial would include the expiry dates on invoices. He disputed the concerns raised by pharmacists, saying that as long as pharmacists managed stocks properly they would not have to pay for discrepancies.
He stressed that this was, at the end of the day, the government’s stocks of medicines that had to be accounted for and waste was to be avoided. This was also backed by the Chamber’s President.
Mr Debono said if short-dated medicines were flagged, then pharmacies would not have to pay. But he insisted that pharmacies needed to ensure they managed their stocks well.
Pressed on why short-dated medicines were being delivered to pharmacies, he said: “If a medicine has a shelf life of six or seven months, that is not short-dated. It’s enough time. We need to try to get it used otherwise we’re just letting it expire”.
The circular gives a deadline to pharmacists, but it does not stipulate when the new measures will be implemented.
“When the stock take from the pharmacies end is settled, and when the new software can be rolled out, the problems faced now will be ironed out,” Mr Debono said.
Mr Debono said there were different reasons for discrepancies which was not necessarily the POYC’s fault. “Patients die and we are not informed, or their treatment changes. Updates take a six-month cycle”.
Reacting, pharmacists insisted that the POYC must live up to the standards expected of them and improve the management of their own stocks and delivery. They questioned whether the POYC will also be forking out money back into government coffers for medicines expiring at their end.
They insisted these issues stem from policy makers and the top management of POYC, not from POYC pharmacists and ancillary staff, who were under resourced and often went beyond their call of duty to ensure a good service.
A policy expert contacted by The Shift News said that since POYC is the service provider it was subcontracting a service, but the responsibility for expiries should lie with them.