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Government Steps Up "No Deal" Brexit Planning to Try to Address Pharma Concerns

on Monday, 14 January 2019.

The UK Government has stepped up plans for protecting medicines in the event of a "no deal" Brexit. This comes amid political wrangling at Westminster where there is no clear picture as to what will happen next...

...and concerns over disruption from a "no deal" scenario mount.

In a concerning admission, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that the previous request for branded and generic pharma manufacturers to stockpile six weeks' worth of medicines may not be sufficient to avert problems with getting medicines to patients in the UK. He has commented that disruptions at the ports may involve gridlock for six months. He said the Government was investigating the possible chartering of planes to fly medicines into the UK to ensure continued supplies.

Lorries carrying short-life medicines and other vital supplies may also be given priority over other goods being transported through the ports. 

Meanwhile, the Government has issued an urgent consultation on changing the law to allow pharmacists to override prescriptions, by changing to an "alternative dosage form", a "therapeutic equivalent" or a "generic equivalent" of medicine or rationing the quantities of medicines for particular patients to ensure there is enough to go round. 

Mr Hancock stressed that they were planning for a "worst case scenario", but added: "As a responsible government, we have a duty to plan for all scenarios. Whilst the six-week medicines stockpiling activities remain a critical part of our UK-wide contingency plan, it is clear that in light of the changed border assumptions described above this will now need to be supplemented with additional action."

Novo Nordisk, the UK's biggest supplier of insulin, has already gone further than Government recommendations for stockpiling, and has been building up a four-month reserve.

Concerns are being raised from the pharmacy end of the pharma supply chain. The Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiation Committee has warned of current increased shortages and prices for generic drugs. He said that this could be caused by stockpiling, Brexit planning and attempts to make contingency plans were among the factors which could be causing the surge.

The Chief Executive of the Company Chemists' Association, Malcolm Harrison, the body representing the largest pharmacy chains, said: "There is a lot of concern from across the sector about the impact of shortages.  If wholesalers, pharmacists or patients start to stockpile, that does jeopardise the supply, which does push prices up."

Comment

There remains a lot of uncertainty around Brexit - not least arising out of the current political uncertainty in the UK's Parliament. Pharma businesses are still doing their best to plan and understand what happens next following Brexit. Things may become clearer after Brexit date itself.


We will be holding a PING (Pharmaceutical Industry Network Group) Conference, in association with EMIG, on 3 April 2019 just after Brexit date, on how Brexit is affecting the pharma supply chain. There are limited places, but if you are interested in attending the event, please contact Paul Gershlick in our Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences team on 01923 919 320.