There is some confusion about how people should go about obtaining and taking medicines during the coronavirus outbreak. This article summarises the available guidance.

Self-isolation and social distancing

If you are in self-isolation, either because you are unwell or as a precaution, you should not visit a pharmacy or other health service. If you have access to an online delivery service, it may be able to continue providing your medicines. If not, ask for support from family, friends, neighbours, local services, local voluntary sector bodies, or local mutual support groups.

You should continue taking your regular medicines as normal. Order repeat prescriptions on your usual timescales, and in the same quantities as you normally would.

Everyone is being asked to seek medical advice remotely in the first instance if at all possible. If you have a scheduled medical appointment, discuss with your GP practice or the hospital whether it should go ahead.

Ibuprofen and paracetamol

Clear guidance is available about ibuprofen and paracetamol.

If you have been told to take ibuprofen by a healthcare professional for any reason, keep taking it.

If you have been told by a healthcare professional that paracetamol is not suitable for you, don’t start taking it.

For everyone else, if you have coronavirus or believe you may have it, take paracetamol to manage your symptoms, rather than ibuprofen, if possible.

This advice has been issued on an interim basis. The evidence around paracetamol, ibuprofen and coronavirus is unclear, and is being reviewed.

Provision for vulnerable groups who are being ‘shielded’

For the 1.5 million people who are being advised to ‘shield’ themselves (including by staying at home for 12 weeks and avoiding face-to-face contact), the following advice is being included in the letters they are being sent by the NHS.

The government is helping pharmacies to deliver prescriptions. Prescriptions will continue to cover the same length of time as usual. If you do not currently have your prescriptions collected or delivered, you can arrange this by:
1. Asking someone who can pick up your prescription from the local pharmacy, (this is the best option, if possible);
2. Contacting your pharmacy to ask them to help you find a volunteer (who will have been ID checked) or deliver it to you.
You may also need to arrange for collection or delivery of hospital specialist medication that is prescribed to you by your hospital care team.

NHS England and Improvement are in discussions to set up a new delivery service for these patients. However, it is expected to be a fall-back service: patients who can get friends or family to collect their medicines will still be asked to do so.

Published April 6th 2020.