Following the parliamentary defeat of the government’s Brexit withdrawal agreement, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said it is “deploying all necessary resources” to ensure patients do not run short of medicines when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.
Speaking after the government defeat on 15 January 2019 — and with less than three months until the agreed Brexit date — Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, said pharmacy negotiators would continue to work with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to plan for all potential scenarios, including a no-deal Brexit.
“Given the ongoing uncertainty, this work is now more critical than ever and the PSNC will be deploying all necessary resources to it,” he said.
“Our focus will remain on contingency planning with the DHSC to ensure that patients can continue to access the medicines they need, when they need them, and that the impact on community pharmacies is minimised.”
Dukes also revealed that government Brexit planning had delayed negotiations on community pharmacy funding and the future role of the sector.
“This is not an exclusive problem to pharmacy but we are concerned that this delay is now likely to continue,” he said.
Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said that “with time running out, we hope parliament will come together and quickly find a solution to the stalemate and reassure patients that medicines will not be disrupted come March 2019”.
He reiterated that a no-deal Brexit would prove “extremely challenging” and the focus of pharmaceutical companies was on making sure that medicines and vaccines got to patients whatever the Brexit outcome.
“This includes stockpiling and duplicating manufacturing processes here and in Europe. We continue to work as closely as possible with government on no deal planning,” he said.
Nathalie Moll, director general of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), said: “Now is the time for policymakers in the UK and the EU to put politics aside and put measures in place to prevent patients being harmed by the consequences of Brexit, “in particular from disruption to the supply of medicines, including from transport delays at the border, and where the development, manufacture, packaging, safety testing and regulation of the medicine no longer benefits from mutual recognition.”
The EFPIA is calling on negotiators to agree on a series of actions that need to be taken to protect patients, including discussions between relevant authorities and the sector to coordinate contingency plans, such as putting fast-track lanes or priority routes for medicines into ports and airports and exploring the possibility of exempting active pharmaceutical ingredients and raw materials for medicines from border checks to ensure manufacturing of medicines continues with limited disruption.
The government has asked drugs manufacturers to maintain a rolling six-week stockpile of medicines for six months in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In addition, GPs and community pharmacies were told not to stockpile additional medicines beyond their business-as-usual stock levels. The DHSC also said there was “no need” for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions and that the public should be discouraged from stockpiling.
Chaand Nagpaul, council chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), said that with less than 75 days to go before the UK is due to leave the EU, it was now “crucial” that a second referendum is held to decide the final outcome of Brexit.
“The BMA has been clear about the danger Brexit poses to the NHS, its workforce, patients and the nation’s health. Leaving the EU will result in poorer care for patients, reduced availability of drugs and medical supplies, and a diminished workforce,” he said.