Best practice for ensuring efficient supply and distribution of medicines to patients

This guidance demonstrates stakeholders, including the government, working together to address supply issues.



Updated joint guidance on best practice medicine supply has been published today. The references in the guidance have been revised to reflect current law. There are no other changes or new requirements on the NHS.

The guidance, first published in February 2011, is produced by organisations representing the supply chain, regulators, and the government.

Medicine supply problems can occur for various reasons, such as manufacturing problems, difficulties in obtaining raw materials, regulatory issues, changes to manufacturers’ distribution systems and fluctuations in parallel trade. This guidance demonstrates stakeholders, including the government, working together to address supply issues.

The key points in the guidance are:

  • an expectation that, under normal circumstances, pharmacies should receive medicines within 24 hours
  • the importance of regular communication between manufacturers and wholesalers so that all parties have a good understanding of the supply and demand for particular products
  • where manufacturers put arrangements in place to verify that a medicine is required for a genuine UK patient, they should be sensitive to the workload implications for dispensers and, as part of these arrangements, dispensers should not disclose patient or prescriber identifiable details
  • the need for all in the supply chain to have contingency arrangements in place to source supply when there are supply difficulties

The government is also taking action to help ensure patients receive their medicines. The MHRA is undertaking a series of targeted inspections so that those who are breaching existing duties to supply medicines will face the consequences.

The Supply Chain Group has developed a list of products in short supply, and this is listed on the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee website, so that no one has the excuse that they are not aware of supply difficulties.

This guidance has been developed by:

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers
British Medical Association
Department of Health
Dispensing Doctors’ Association
Ethical Medicines Industry Group
General Pharmaceutical Council
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
National Pharmacy Association
Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee
Royal Pharmaceutical Society