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UK MPs call for Brexit priority over pharma industry

Published on 17/05/18 at 09:23am

A new report published by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has called for the UK government to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry is aligned as closely as possible to European regulation post-Brexit.

The call is the most direct recommendation yet, from within government, for what the pharmaceutical industry has been asking for since Brexit was first announced.

Theresa May did give some indication, in March, that she would like to see some UK industries remain regulated by EU agencies, by “making an appropriate financial contribution” to retain their services.

The report, The impact of Brexit on the pharmaceutical sector, delineates clearly why not managing to achieve this would be so damaging to the UK industry. It highlights that with £11.9 billion worth of exports to consumers in the EU, the UK economy cannot risk damaging this relationship.

In addition, it notes that trade between the UK and EU countries is vital, two-way relationship, with 446 million consumers to trade to in the bloc and three quarters of UK medicines coming from the EU.

Perhaps less convincingly, the report argues that a separate regulatory system in the UK could result in an additional cost of £45,000 for every new product released, suggesting that this would damage desire to market in the UK. In reality, this cost per product is small change for most pharmaceutical companies.

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: “The Government’s own analysis identifies pharmaceuticals as the sector for which UK/EU market access is the most important given the industry is reliant on friction-free border movement for their products.  Any delays at the border faced by short-life pharmaceuticals for emergency treatments would have a hugely detrimental impact on patients.

“The Prime Minister has previously set out a positive and compelling case for continued cooperation on medicines, but, with the clock ticking, it is now time for the Government to end the uncertainty and translate words into actions. Some form of membership of the EMA is vital to the continued success of the pharma industry and to the welfare of British patients and the Government should strike a deal to keep some of the organisation’s jobs and facilities in the UK, to continue to share our world-leading expertise.”

A statement released by the ABPI, unsurprisingly, supported the findings of the report: “Every month, 45 million packs of medicine move from the UK to the EU, with 37 million moving the other way. Today’s Select Committee Report is right - a Brexit ‘no deal’ would significantly damage public health, patient access to medicines and the UK’s leading pharmaceutical sector. This must be avoided at all costs. Securing cooperation on the regulation, trade and supply of medicines must be a priority for both the UK Government and the EU.”

Ben Hargreaves

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