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No-deal Brexit could cause shortages and higher prices, healthcare distributors warn

Published on 19/06/19 at 05:26pm

The Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) has warned MPs that Britain could face shortages of medicines if it were to leave the European Union (EU) without a deal on 31 October.

Supplies of short-life and less common medicines would be put at risk in a no-deal Brexit, according to representatives of the HDA speaking to parliament’s Brexit select committee on 19 June.

“We would expect medicine shortages and a lot of price rises for the NHS to happen pretty quickly, and some shortages in constituencies around most of the UK,” said HDA Executive Director Martin Sawer. “We would expect some critical shortages probably in the lower volume medicines, not the everyday ones which are stockpiled.”

Citing the shortage of Epipens last year, Sawer pointed out that the UK has experienced shortages even while it was a member of the EU. As such, disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit could cause major problems for Britain’s medical supply chain.

Meanwhile, counterfeit and substandard drugs could find their way into the legal supply chain if the UK were to detach itself from the systems put in place by the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD).

“If we leave with no deal, we could be unplugged from that system and therefore medicines in the UK, we believe, could be less safe because there is evidence already of organised crime trying to get into the regular prescription market,” Sawer continued.

Disruption to the supply chain caused by a no-deal Brexit would also put some critical medicines (many of which need to be stored refrigerated units until they are consumed) at risk.

“In medicines you have to get it 100% right. It’s not like supermarkets or car parks. You can’t delay that for some critical medicines. That’s our concern,” Sawer added.

Steve Bates, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association, continued in warning that a no-deal Brexit would “negatively impact” patients and public health, suggesting that trade barriers or new checks could disrupt supply chains, describing the way that APIs might be manufactured in one country, turned into drugs in another country and packaged in a third.

The comments come after Conservative leadership contender Boris Johnson refused to take no-deal off the table as he insisted that the UK must leave the European Union – with or without a deal – by 31 October.

Louis Goss

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