Covid-19 and consumer healthcare

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How is PAGB responding to the coronavirus? What is the impact on OTC medicines? How can people self care?

The coronavirus known as Covid-19 has quickly become a major concern to Governments and health systems across the world.

It was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020 and in the following days the UK Government began implementing measures to restrict the spread of the virus including advising people to stay indoors; closing schools, non-essential businesses and places where people gather; and making provision for more capacity in the health service. On 26 March, the Government passed emergency legislation, The Coronavirus Act 2020, to enable it to respond to the virus as it develops in the coming weeks and months.

The scale of the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS quickly became clear and healthcare professionals in primary care and pharmacy are firmly on the front line of the response to the virus.

Content posted on this page is intended to provide an overview of Covid-19 and self care. 

PAGB’s regulatory advice for members on Covid-19 issues is being posted to a dedicated section of our website, which is restricted to members only (log-in required). This includes a comprehensive blog of Covid-19-related regulatory information and policy announcements of specific relevance to the consumer healthcare industry such as MHRA guidance, international developments and Government updates to legislation, guidance and advice. 

Official sources of guidance

For direct access to official advice on Covid-19 follow the links below:

In the news

PAGB statements on Covid-19 are posted on our news page here.  Recent statements include:

OTC products and coronavirus

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring that people have access to effective and appropriate self care has become more important than ever before.

It is vital that those who do not need hospital care can alleviate symptoms as far as possible at home with over-the-counter products, taken according to instructions on packaging and patient information. These include products containing paracetamol, as recommended by the Government in its official Covid-19 advice.

As retailers experience unprecedented demand for paracetamol, and in many cases are taking the difficult decision to cap sales to individual consumers, our members are doing their utmost to ensure availability in pharmacies and supermarkets across the UK.

pharmacist and stock

Their efforts have been bolstered by the Government’s welcome decision to include producers and distributors of medicines in the ‘key worker’ category, along with so many others involved in health and social care at this very challenging time. Read our statement on this.

We are in constant communication with our members, and on their behalf with other organisations in the UK and internationally, to monitor issues relating to the pandemic and availability of over-the-counter products.

Regulatory flexibilities

Ensuring there is access to medicines and medical devices such as over-the-counter products for symptom relief and medical devices used to diagnose coronavirus is of critical importance.

PAGB is representing its members in discussions with MHRA on identifying additional regulatory flexibilities that could be implemented to support the healthcare products supply chain and wider response to Covid-19 in the UK. Additional flexibilities published so far are available on the MHRA website and cover medical devices, medicines regulation and pharmacovigilance.

More detailed information on PAGB’s work in this area is available to members via our Covid-19 news page and in our regulatory intelligence updates. (PAGB members only)

 

The pharmaceutical industry response

Our members are manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines, medical devices and food supplements. As companies operating in the life sciences sector, many of whom have their own research functions, they are well placed to use their resources and expertise to support efforts to develop diagnostics and treatments for this new virus.

PAGB members are collaborating with other companies and institutions in the UK and globally. The Global Self Care Federation is collecting information about the global consumer healthcare industry response to the coronavirus here.

The ABPI maintains a list of current activity being undertaken by the UK life science community and how this is contributing to better understanding of the virus. It has compiled a really useful guide to pharmaceutical sector involvement in the Covid-19 effort; visit the ABPI webpage What are pharmaceutical companies doing to tackle COVID-19? to find out more.

Self care and coronavirus

PAGB and its members in the consumer healthcare industry support the Government’s advice on social distancing and good hygiene to reduce the risk of infection with coronavirus. Self care is now even more important to every one of us, and to reducing pressure on the NHS.

There are several simple steps we can take to maintain good health and well-being while adhering to the Government’s restrictions on movement. Over-the-counter medicines, medical devices and food supplements can also support people to relieve symptoms such as paracetamol for fever and pain relief, cough products to soothe a cough, or throat remedies for sore throat.

Self care during lockdown

Pharmacists and self care

We know that the expertise and information provided by pharmacists, along with access to appropriate over-the-counter medicines, plays a huge part in helping people care for themselves and their families and relieving strain on other parts of the NHS.

However, demand on all parts of the health service is particularly high at this time, including in community pharmacy, and our usual recommendation to visit a pharmacist for advice on self care for self-treatable conditions is not currently appropriate.

Pharmacists are at the front line of the coronavirus and are working around the clock to ensure people get the medication they need. We support the important work of pharmacy organisations, PSNC, RPS, NPA, CCA and AIM who are supporting pharmacy colleagues with resilience resources, guidance and practical advice on opening and pharmacy funding.

Reliable online advice

Where possible, people should seek advice from reliable online sources including:

People experiencing symptoms which could be the Covid-19 virus, are advised not to visit the GP or pharmacy, instead to go online to NHS 111.

Where can I find out more?

For more information about PAGB’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, contact policy@pagb.co.uk.

PAGB regulatory intelligence related to Covid-19 is added daily to our Covid-19 blog (member only, log-in required). PAGB members wishing to subscribe to our daily Covid-19 email update should contact info@pagb.co.uk