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COVID-19: UK Home Secretary Urged To Allow Pharmacists To Dispense Controlled Drugs

More than 50 drug policy, public health and harm reduction experts have signed an open letter urging the UK Home Secretary to trigger legislation that is contained in the recently amended Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. Such actions would allow additional flexibilities during the covid-19 pandemic pertaining to OST prescriptions such as methadone, benefitting patients and health care staff alike. 

The Home Secretary has this week amended the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, providing Ministers with emergency powers concerning the supply of controlled drugs such as morphine in specified circumstances during a pandemic. 

Ministers now have the option to trigger additional flexibilities during the covid-19 pandemic, such as allowing pharmacies to supply controlled medication without a prescription. Also, to allow supply of alternative medications should there be a shortage of a drug, this permits on-going treatment with alternative products where prescribed items are unavailable or are in short supply. The legislation also allows pharmacists without prescribing rights to change the frequency of instalments on prescriptions without the need for a new prescription from the prescriber.  

We welcome the Home Secretary’s move last week to lay before parliament legislation which would allow some loosening of the regulations for controlled drugs. Given the urgency with which prescribers and pharmacists need to provide pain control and reduce severe breathing difficulty for patients with covid-19 this legislation needs to be enacted urgently. 

We call on the Home Secretary to trigger the useful actions contained in the legislation without delay as this will benefit health care staff and most importantly patients. 


Dr Yasir Abbasi – Maudsley Health

Professor John Ashton – former president of the UK Public Health Association

Dr Rachel Britton – Director of Pharmacy, We Are With You

Professor Julia Buxton – Central European University

Dr Patricia Cantley – NHS Consultant, Edinburgh

Anna Codrea-Rado – Journalist, London

Professor Nicky Cullum – University of Manchester

Chris Daw QC – Serjeants’ Inn, London

Paul Delaney – coAim, Wexford.

Dr Suzanne Gage – University of Liverpool

Dr Matthew Gaskell – Consultant Psychologist, Leeds

Professor Simon Gilbody – University of York

Vanessa Gilmartin – Sociable Angels Ltd, Leeds

Roz Gittins – Humankind

Emily Goddard – Journalist, Bedfordshire

Ian Hamilton – University of York

Dr William Haydock – Public Health Dorset

Nick Hickmott – We Are With You, Kent

Dr Samei Huda – Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust

Professor Elizabeth Hughes – University of Leeds

Professor Sonia Johnson – University College London

John Jolly – ex CEO Blenheim Drug Project

Arfon Jones – Police and crime commissioner North Wales

Danny Kushlick – Campaigns Consultant, Bristol

Dr Garrett McGovern – Priority Medical Clinic, Dublin

Dr David Manley – Nottinghamshire NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Sally Marlow – Kings College London

Professor Fiona Measham – University of Liverpool

Dr Mark Monaghan – University of Birmingham

Mark Moody – CEO, Change Grow Live

Dr Rajesh Mohan – South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Steve Moore – Centre for Medicinal Cannabis

Professor Marcus Munafo – University of Bristol

Dr Russell Newcombe – 3D research, Liverpool

James Nichols – Transform Drug Policy Foundation

Professor David Nutt – Imperial College London

Professor Jolanta Opacka – University of Roehampton

Mike Power – Journalist, London

Dr Rob Ralphs – Manchester Metropolitan University

Jason Reed – Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Steve Rolles – Transform Drug Policy Foundation

Dr Tony Rao – South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Professor Toby Seddon – University of Manchester

Professor Alex Stevens – University of Kent

Professor Harry Sumnall – Liverpool John Moores University

Dr Andre Tomlin – The Mental Elf, Bristol.

Russell Webster – Consultant, Essex

Jo-Anne Welsh – CEO Oasis Project

Professor Robert West – University College London

Dr Emma Williams – Canterbury Christ Church University

Professor Adam Winstock – University College London

Dr Judith Yates – International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies

Niamh Eastwood, Release, London

Paul North, Volteface, London

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