HC Deb 23 October 1967 vol 751 cc1334-5
28 and 29. Mr. Fortescue

asked the Minister of Health (1) what action he is prepared to take to check the quality of drugs marketed by small pharmaceutical companies obtaining their supplies from abroad;

(2) if, where a prescribable drug is found to contain material which is not an active ingredient of the drug which has been officially approved, he will take action to safeguard the interests of National Health Service patients.

Mr. Snow

It is the responsibility of local authorities to enforce the prohibition in the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, of the retail sale of a drug that is inaccurately labelled or is not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser.

In addition, executive councils arrange for selected National Health Service prescriptions awaiting collection to be taken for analysis, and where a fault is found the matter is referred to the Pharmaceutical Service Committee for investigation whether there has been a breach of the chemist's terms of service.

The Government recently announced in Command Paper 3395 their intention of introducing early legislation to provide further safeguards in respect of the quality of medicines generally, whether imported or not.

Mr. Fortescue

Is the Minister aware that a Dublin firm, I.C.P., is now marketing in this country a product under the label Ampicillin which does not contain ampicillin but penicillin "v" and that if this drug were given to a patient for whom ampicillin had been prescribed, the result could be fatal? Is it not extremely urgent to take action against such commercial outlaws who are endangering the health of patients in this way?

Mr. Snow

We are aware of the case which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. Our information is not quite so dramatic. My right hon. Friend has written to the firm concerned in view of the possible hazards involved to ask what steps have been taken to withdraw the batch in question from circulation. He is awaiting a reply.