The head of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has backed a decision not to involve community pharmacy in Brexit stockpiling of drugs.
Mike Thompson described the effort to build up a buffer of medicines in case of ‘no-deal’ Brexit as “the biggest logistical challenge the industry has faced in peace time”.
In a letter dated August 2018, Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, warned pharmacists and GPs not to stockpile drugs. In his letter, he said the government was instead working with pharmaceutical manufacturers to secure six weeks’ worth of medicine stocks for when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
Thompson told The Pharmaceutical Journal that he thought it was a “sensible decision” from government that community pharmacists have been told not to stockpile medicines.
He described it as “clearly best practice from a logistics point of view”, adding that it would mean pharmacy would receive medicines “at the point they have a prescription” rather than “second guessing by stockholding themselves”.
Thompson said the ABPI had been recommending to pharma companies that they should be preparing for a no-deal Brexit from “as early as last year”.
He said that while companies already carry buffer stocks to ensure medicines get to patients, what they have not known is how much extra stock they should prepare for any delays at the UK’s border.
“What the government has done is provide guidance on how much additional stock companies should carry to cover that eventuality,” he said.
“We’ve clarified with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that this is not a blanket six weeks’ extra stock for everybody. Companies need to look at their own buffer stocks and assess whether they have enough stocks to cover a six week delay at the border, and adjust their buffer stocks accordingly.
“This is not just about building stocks for one particular product but asking the industry to build stocks across everything — so the scale of what’s being asked by the government increases the risk particularly for generic companies and smaller companies.”
He said the cost of working capital “will run to hundreds of millions of pounds” and that the ABPI would like to see the government providing “a small amount of money to help cover costs of additional warehousing”.
Thompson said the ABPI was working in partnership with wholesalers and pre-wholesalers through a committee set up by DHSC, so “people can have confidence that this is a robust plan put in place to manage this situation”.
The industry will also be looking at additional safeguards to protect the medicines supply in the UK in the longer term after Brexit, such as moving them by aeroplane, he said.