The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) have urged the UK Government and European Commission to prioritise medicines in Brexit trade talks.

With 15 weeks left for the Brexit transition period to end, the pharma bodies emphasised the need for a comprehensive trade deal to mitigate any medicine supply chain disruptions following Brexit.

Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic situation, they stressed on the need to protect medicines supply to 500 million patients.

The trade bodies suggest that a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) on Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) will help accept each other’s tests and inspections currently followed.

Failing to reach this agreement, the UK and the EU could face a delay of approximately four to six weeks to the medicines supply, as the drugs will be re-tested.

Every month 45 million packs of drugs move from the UK to the EU and 37 million go from the EU to the UK. Retesting could add costs, as well as delay access to patients.

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Moreover, companies will have to perform duplicative processes such as testing operations, separately in the UK and the EU.

Without an MRA, GDP of the EU and the UK nominal GDP would fall by €1.3bn and €5bn, respectively, each year, the bodies said.

Furthermore, EU pharmaceutical exports would decrease by 1.2% in the long-term if there is no deal and by 0.9% upon signing of an MRA.

Without a free trade agreement (FTA), pharmaceutical exports would lower by 22.5%, for the UK, costing €4.1bn annually. With an MRA, the fall would be 12.6% (€2.3bn).

The trade bodies also called for the UK and EU to agree on a one-year ‘phase-in’ of the Northern Ireland Protocol for medicines, starting from the point when there is agreement on its interpretation.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry chief executive Richard Torbett said: “The UK Government and European Commission have an opportunity to end this uncertainty and strengthen healthcare systems with an agreement on medicines whilst negotiations continue.”