New UK medicines legislation now in force

Simpler, clearer regulations have replaced much of the Medicines Act 1968 and the more than 200 statutory instruments that followed it. The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 came into force in August, and introduced some policy changes, as well as streamlining existing provisions.

One change is the provision for nurses holding the advanced life support certificate issued by the Resuscitation Council (UK) to administer adrenaline and amiodarone in cardiac arrest emergencies. Before this, even though non-prescribing nurses holding this certificate had been assessed as competent to administer these medicines in a cardiac arrest, they could only do so using Patient Group Directions, whereas a separate exemption applied to paramedics. Professor Matt Griffiths, Executive Council member of the Resuscitation Council (UK), said, “This is excellent news: it protects the nurse who is giving the medication by clarifiying the legislation, but it also protects patients by ensuring that those requiring such medicines in these situations are given them by nurses who are assessed and certified to the highest standards.”

Other exemptions about the supply, sale or administration of medicines have also been introduced, updated, or removed, to bring legislation into line with current practice. The Regulations also allow pharmacists to make changes to a prescription without attempting to contact the prescriber.