European and UK pharma industry call for action as parliament rejects Brexit deal

17 January 2019 (Last Updated January 17th, 2019 12:50)

The UK pharma industry has called for preparations to ensure that patients will have access to their medications in case of a no-deal Brexit by 30 March 2019.

European and UK pharma industry call for action as parliament rejects Brexit deal
Pharma industry concerned over medicines supply to patients in case of a no-deal Brexit. Credit: Bankenverband.

The European and UK pharma industry have called for preparations to ensure that patients will have access to their medications in case of a no-deal Brexit by 30 March 2019.

The call follows parliament’s rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal plan by a margin of 230 votes on 15 January.

Following the momentous parliamentary defeat, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) highlighted ‘real, tangible and immediate threats’ to patients and public health in the UK as well as the EU.

The organisation urged negotiators on both sides to implement a set of actions to protect patients in case of a hard Brexit.

EFPIA director General Nathalie Moll said: “Now is the time for policy makers in the UK and the EU to put politics aside and put measures in place to prevent patients being harmed by the consequences of Brexit.

“In particular from disruption to the supply of medicines including from transport delays at the border and where the development, manufacture, packaging, safety testing and regulation of the medicine no longer benefits from mutual recognition.”

“Now is the time for policy makers in the UK and the EU to put politics aside and put measures in place to prevent patients being harmed by the consequences of Brexit.”

Some of the actions recommended by the EFPIA include continued recognition of UK-based testing, and priority routes for delivering medicines into ports and airports.

Furthermore, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said that it would continue to work with the UK Department of Health and Social Care to plan for all possible scenarios.

PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes noted: “Maintaining the supply of medicines to UK patients and community pharmacies must be a priority whatever the eventual approach to Brexit and we are pleased that dialogue on this has already been happening.

“Given the ongoing uncertainty this work is now more critical than ever and PSNC will be deploying all necessary resources to it.”

Commenting on the rejection of Brexit plan, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) insisted that undisrupted supply of medicines to patients should be the priority, whatever may be the final outcome.

Meanwhile, Germany’s chemical and pharmaceutical sector expressed concerns over a hard Brexit. VCI director-general Utz Tillmann said that supply of medicines in the UK would be particularly affected.

Tillmann added: “A no-deal Brexit would result in such a complex situation that it is impossible for businesses to get ready for all eventualities.”

Additional reporting by Allie Nawrat:

Medicines for Ireland, which represents the country’s biggest pharmaceutical suppliers, has called on the government to establish a Medicine Contingency Stakeholder Group comprising of representatives from government, the pharmaceutical industry and state agencies.

The group would discuss and coordinate drug shortage issues in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This call comes in the context of Tánaiste, or the deputy head of the government,  Simon Coveney saying on 14 January the public should not be concerned about medical shortages in the event of no-deal Brexit.

The Irish Times reported that the Department of Health was further ahead in Brexit preparations than other departments, since it has already begun discussing plans regarding how to maintain supplies with important pharma companies and suppliers.

Despite Coveney’s assurances, the government has resolved to further improve its contingency plans for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit deal.

An Irish cabinet meeting held on the day of the UK parliamentary vote heard that 60-70% of the 4,000 medicines marketed in Ireland coming from the UK and therefore medicine supplies will be threatened by no-deal Brexit.

According to the Guardian, the cabinet decided to focus on implementing a 17-part bill to focus on reducing the most damaging effects of a no-deal Brexit; health is listed alongside trade, tax, jobs, and security.