A third of manufacturers affiliated with the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) have opted not to rely on government-run ferries after a no-deal Brexit, instead paying for their own transportation between the EU and the UK.
Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal, Warwick Smith, director general of the BGMA, said some of its members are choosing to secure their own freight capacity instead of relying on ferries secured by the government due to the “uncertainty” around government plans.
The BGMA currently has 45 members, which supply 85% of the UK generic medicines market.
This comes after the government announced on 27 June 2019 that it would introduce an “express freight service” for urgent medicines that are in short supply, as part of plans to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Smith said the government and the BGMA have been “round the table for over 18 months, doing everything we can to plan for” issues with the flow of medicines into the UK after a no-deal Brexit, “with a particular focus on the short-strait channel crossing”.
He said that while the government is expected to secure some additional ferry capacity for medicine imports in time for the Brexit deadline of 31 October 2019, “we are seeing manufacturers putting their own procedures in place”.
This includes “either booking additional capacity on ferry routes that they currently use or actually using new additional ferry routes,” he said.
“Probably a third of our members have already started booking additional, new ferry capacity to cope with [a no-deal Brexit]”.
Smith added that pharmaceutical companies’ decision not to use the government-secured ferries is due to a “lack of information about government plans — so uncertainty”.
“It’s also — pharmaceutical companies — it’s just in the genes that you assess risk and do something about it, and don’t necessarily rely on everybody else,” he continued.
The additional routes secured by BGMA manufacturers are also thought to be longer routes between the EU and the UK as “that gives more time to sort things out in the ports”, said Smith.
“Bizarrely, the longer the crossing, the more robust it is — but equally the more expensive it is,” he said, adding that he hopes some of the £434m promised by the government to support the medicines supply chain after no-deal Brexit “will come the way of industry and the distribution chain to defray some of those costs” incurred from contingency planning.