§ Mr. Ogden
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will list the names and quantities of the drugs and medicines supplied by the Inter-Continental Pharmaceuticals group of companies to the National Health Service during the past 12 months;
(2) what action he is taking to ensure that all drugs or medicines supplied to the National Health Service by the Inter-Continental Pharmaceuticals group of companies are of the required standard of safety and efficacy;
(3) if he is satisfied as to the effectiveness of the legislation to ensure the safety and efficacy of drugs and medicines; and what action he proposes to take to strengthen the law to prevent frauds and abuse;
(4) whether he will place Inter-Continental Pharmaceuticals (Cyprus) on the list of drug producers, the import of whose products into the United Kingdom is forbidden;
(5) whether he is aware that certain doctors are purchasing drugs from certain companies at low prices and charging them to the National Health Service at high prices; and if he will hold an inquiry with a view to ending this practice;
(6) whether he will institute proceedings under the Medicines Act 1968 against the proprietors of Inter Continental Pharmaceuticals (Bletchley) Limited, Inter321W
Channel Pharmaceuticals Limited and associated companies for selling drugs and medicines which are not of the required standard of safety and efficiency.
§ Mr. Ennals
None have been bought by hospitals under central purchasing arrangements made by my Department nor, as far as I am aware, under local arrangements made by hospital authorities. Information is not centrally available about the sources from which retail chemists and dispensing doctors buy the medicines they dispense under the National Health Service; but trading by this group of firms is not thought to have been on a large scale.
If samples of poor quality or misdescribed drugs came to light, proceedings under the Food and Drugs Acts might be possible. This legislation is however inadequate in its scope and application, and one of the main objects of the Medicines Act, 1968, is to provide new and better machinery for ensuring the safety, efficacy and quality of medicines. No action can, however, be taken under the new Act until the relevant provisions have been brought into operation, and certain preliminary steps are necessary before this can be done. In the meantime there is no power to prohibit import of drugs of the kind handled by this group of companies; but should it be found that any firm has put on the market a drug, whether manufactured in this country or imported, without having first secured clearance by the Safety of Drugs Committee, I shall have no hesitation in asking doctors and chemists—as was done in relation to one of these companies, in October 1968—not to use it until clearance has been secured.
Doctors do not themselves price the drugs they supply and reimbursement is normally at standard rates based on suppliers' list prices averaged in the case of non-proprietary drugs. If my hon. Friend has evidence of serious discrepancies between costs to doctors and amounts reimbursed I should like to see it.