Wholesalers’ trade body says medicines supply will be ‘fine’ on the first day after Brexit transition period

Martin Sawer, executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association, said he is confident that there will be minimal disruption to the supply chain as soon as the Brexit transition period ends, but there is potential for supply problems in the near future.

Drugs stacked in a warehouse

The representative for wholesalers that provide 92% of the UK’s medicines has said he is confident that “everything will be fine” in terms of drugs supplies on day one after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Martin Sawer, executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA), told The Pharmaceutical Journal
that he was “comfortable with the preparations” for Brexit, which will fully come into force at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021.

“Given the range of medicines that the UK has – almost 25,000 different lines – one can imagine that there is going to be a hiccup, probably somewhere,” he said.

“But that might not happen on day one.”

Sawer accepted that there could be “a supply issue further down the track after a month or two”.

“But the government emergency routes will remain open at least until April 2021 to overcome issues such as that,” he added.

“So, I’m confident on day one, everything is going to be fine. It’s a bit further on down the line, if there are hold ups at ports and what that knock on effect will be.”

Sawer also said he was assured that there would be few problems in delivering the millions of COVID-19 vaccines that have been ordered by the UK government.

“Certain companies in the HDA have been discussing plans with NHS England to help get the COVID vaccines from government storage to the primary care network vaccination sites. Hospitals are transporting them themselves basically.

“We’ve got the most difficult one first, potentially — Pfizer’s frozen product — which is a bit more complicated. Only a couple of wholesalers might be involved in that. But I hope in due course in 2021 as the other vaccines, which only require fridges, become available, we should be able to supply more widely.

“The six different COVID vaccines that the UK has ordered are made by global – usually branded – pharmaceutical companies, who will have worked out alternative routes, or how to stockpile in the UK,” he said.

“They will have put continuity plans in place because they have the resources to do so. I don’t think even a no-deal Brexit will affect the supply of vaccines for COVID.”

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, December 2020;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208630