Q. I have a prescription for VSL#3® – what is it and is it allowed on an NHS prescription?

A. VSL#3® is a probiotic food supplement and is made by Ferring Pharmaceuticals. The ACBS committee has recommended to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that the product be removed from the Borderline Substances (ACBS) list in the England & Wales Drug Tariff and in the Northern Ireland Drug Tariff as of December 2018.

The loss of ACBS approval may mean that a prescriber could be asked to justify the writing of a prescription for the product. The prescription can still be dispensed and the pharmacy will be reimbursed as long as it is not listed in the Blackist (part XVIIIA of the Drug Tariff).

In Scotland there is no ACBS list. At present the item can be dispensed but it will be classed as a ‘Pay and Report’ item . The pharmacy will be reimbursed but the prescriber may be contacted to justify prescribing the item.

Any product not listed in Part VIIIB of the tariff (Part 7 in Scotland, Part 1 in Northern Ireland) must be endorsed with the manufacturer, the pack size and the price.

It is important to remember that any food or supplement used for any medical purpose can be prescribed provided it is not on the blacklist or classed as a medical device (CE marked). A CE mark would require the product to be listed in the Drug Tariff in the appliances section.

For a full discussion on how to determine whether an item is allowed on NHS prescription or not, members can access our CPD module: Understanding the Drug Tariff.

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