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Coronavirus: Executive urged to step in as pharmacists face higher prices for drugs and heavy workload to meet demand

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Critical testing: Gerard Greene

Critical testing: Gerard Greene

Critical testing: Gerard Greene

Pharmacists in Northern Ireland have warned coronavirus pressures mean the price of some prescription drugs are "rocketing".

Even over-the-counter medications like paracetamol are affected - it has jumped in price from 79p a packet to around £2.

Gerard Greene from Community Pharmacy NI told the Stormont Health Committee yesterday pharmacists were working around the clock to meet demand.

"As a profession we are doing our bit," he said. "It's up to the department and the Executive to immediately step in, prioritise the asks that we have so our teams can continue to look after our patients throughout this Covid-19 crisis and, more critically, beyond."

He said testing of frontline staff for coronavirus was "critical" so those who were not positive did not need to self-isolate unnecessarily. Global supply issues have increased the cost of many medications in recent weeks, meaning larger overheads for pharmacists.

"It's also the prescription medicines ," he said. "We're seeing some medicine prices rocketing.

"We have to buy the medicines in that we're charged, otherwise the patients don't get those medicines."

Mr Greene called for certainty on government to guarantee to keep local pharmacies open.

He also called on the public to avoid stockpiling prescription medications where possible.

Peter Rice, of Mckenzie Rice Pharmacies, said community pharmacies were well-placed to manage repeat prescriptions, taking pressure of GP surgeries.

He agreed that being able to test staff for coronavirus was vital as many patients were turning up at pharmacies with flu-like symptoms against official advice.

"We can't risk our team being wiped out," he said.

Belfast Telegraph