The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has written to pharmaceutical companies asking them to keep their six-week stockpiles of medicines “in place but on hold” until further notice.
In a parliamentary statement, health minister Stephen Hammond said the DHSC wrote to companies on 26 April 2019 asking “that all ‘no deal’ Brexit measures, such as stockpiles and additional buffer stocks, should remain in place but on hold until further guidance is available”.
This comes after a statement from the government on 16 April 2019 saying that it would “review its position” on drug stockpiles held in case of a no-deal Brexit after the UK agreed a second extension for the Brexit deadline with the EU.
In August 2018, pharmaceutical companies were asked to develop six-week stockpiles for some drugs to ensure a continuous supply in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
However, following an EU summit on 10 April 2019, an agreement was put in place with the EU that extended the Article 50 process so that the UK could remain in the EU until 31 October 2019.
Pharmaceutical companies said at the time that they were working with the government to review the guidance in light of the extension.
Following the DHSC’s latest advice, a spokesperson for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry admitted “it is not easy for companies to hold large amounts of stock on a rolling basis”.
“That’s why we’re working with the government to review contingency plans to take the best approach in preparing for a possible ‘no deal’ from the end of October,” they said, adding that stockpiling medicines “has been just one aspect of company contingency planning” for a no-deal Brexit.