NHS plans for UK medicines supply in no-deal Brexit

21 January 2019 (Last Updated January 21st, 2019 12:23)

The UK National Health Service (NHS) has announced contingency plans to ensure there is no disruption to medicines supply for patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit. 

NHS plans for UK medicines supply in no-deal Brexit
The UK pharma industry is working with the government on a six-week stockpiling of prescription only and pharmacy medicines. Credit: freestocks.org on Unsplash.

The UK National Health Service (NHS) has announced contingency plans to ensure there is no disruption to medicines supply for patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In a letter to UK pharmacists, NHS England chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge warned against stockpiling medicines locally to avoid disruption to supply stability.

The pharma industry is already working with the government to facilitate a six-week stockpiling of prescription-only and pharmacy medicines.

In addition, the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) forged contracts for additional warehouse space to stockpile medicines, including ambient, refrigerated and controlled drug storage.

The government is also working to identify medicines with a manufacturing touch point in the European Union (EU) or wider European Economic Area (EEA) markets.

Furthermore, plans are being developed for alternate transport routes in order to avoid medicines shortages if the UK exits the EU without a deal.

The UK also intends to prioritise medicines and medical products on alternative routes to optimise the supply capacity.

“In the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario this additional transport capacity and prioritisation includes prescription-only medicines and pharmacy medicines, general sales list medicines and unlicensed medicines.”

In the letter, Ridge said: “In the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario this additional transport capacity and prioritisation includes prescription-only medicines and pharmacy medicines, general sales list medicines and unlicensed medicines, including specials and investigational medicinal products used in clinical trials and vaccines.”

Public Health England has collaborated with vaccine suppliers to ensure replenishment of stockpiles in case the supply is hindered. The NHS added that clinical research, including trials, should continue unless specified otherwise.

DHSC asked unlicensed and specials suppliers to stock at least six weeks of additional supply in the UK. They were also advised to have sufficient ingredients in the country for continued supply.

The UK also introduced legislation to allow ministers to issue orders that enable community pharmacies to dispense against protocol, instead of a prescription, without consulting the prescriber first.

The NHS’s latest guidance comes after Parliament rejected UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal plan.

European and UK pharma sectors have called for preparations to ensure that patients will have access to medications.