The British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (BAPW) has called on the government to work more closely with the whole of the medicines supply chain to ensure that treatments can be accessed by patients as quickly as possible in the event of a flu pandemic.

In its consultation response to the Department of Health on the UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy, the BAPW points out how increased cooperation between all stakeholders in the medicines supply chain would allow for greater management of the delivery of medicines during a crisis.

The Association urges the Department to organise a consignment agreement with the BAPW's nine member companies which would permit them to rent medicine storage space in the wholesalers' depots. This would allow medicines to be stored closer to "hot spots" around the UK and provide more immediate access to life-saving medicines, it says.

The BAPW response also calls on the Department to:

- develop a national framework of medicine distribution in advance of a flu outbreak which would clearly define best practice during an outbreak and reduce uncertainty in the supply chain;

- require medicine manufacturers to work with full-line wholesalers to ensure that they have access to the medicines which are predicted to be liable to an increase in demand during a pandemic; and

- produce a plan with a clear and concise set of instructions outlining what should happen to unused medicines that wholesalers could still be holding after a crisis is over.

"These recommendations are based upon our key learnings from the flu epidemic that occurred during the winter of 2010 and which placed increased strain on the medicines supply chain," said the BAPW's executive director, Martin Sawer. 

"We welcome the opportunity to share these recommendations with the government and are confident that these measures would help safeguard the universal and impartial supply of medicines to patents across the UK in future outbreaks," Mr Sawer added.