Call for temporary medicines export ban in light of no-deal Brexit outcome

2 April 2019

The UK pharma industry has called for a temporary medicines export ban to prevent the NHS from being hit by national drugs shortage in the event of no-deal Brexit.

It warns that the NHS is at risk of wholesalers taking their business elsewhere if the pound drops following the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Banning exports of vital medicines will discourage wholesalers from parallel trading, whereby products intended for one market are exported to another EU member state. This could result in wholesalers taking advantage of the different pricing systems in more stable markets within the EU, potentially offering wholesalers bigger profits if the pound depletes.

Pharmaceutical companies have already begun stockpiling medicines in preparation for a no-deal Brexit, with most of them at least six weeks’ worth of reserves. This has been addition to work to change and add new supply routes to prevent disruption.

AstraZeneca, MSD and Sanofi are some other companies have implemented these contingency plans. However, this certainly doesn’t come cheap, with the King’s Fund recently estimated that stockpiling efforts could cost the UK as much as £2 billion.

“Pharmaceutical companies have done everything in their power to prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit,” said ABPI Mike Thompson earlier this month. “Despite these efforts, we have always said that in a ‘no deal’ scenario we could face the very real possibility of disruption to the supply of some medicines.”

The UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced a medicines contingency programme, which includes a prioritisation model, and securing additional transport for critical goods such as medicines imports.

“We are aware of concerns raised about this issue and continue to work closely with the NHS, industry and the supply chain to ensure patients continue to access medicines in the same way they do now - whatever the EU exit outcome,” the DHSC said.

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