Brexit could cause drug shortages - wholesalers

Pills in world map shape

A "Brexit" could compromise the UK’s supply of medicines and drive up prices, according to pharma wholesalers.

The Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA UK) said in its conference newsletter that proposals by many supporters of the 'Leave' campaign to opt out of the EU single market would cut off the supply of parallel imports of medicines.

Shortages could “become much more acute” if the UK leaves the EU. As it is, the country has always been a net importer of medicines from the EU.

This legal parallel trade provides medicines “at short notice and at a reduced cost”, HDA UK said.

Many wholesalers source medicines from the EU and this process is made much easier by one over-arching set of laws on Good Distribution Practice.

HDA UK said that leaving the EU, and having another set of GDP regulations for the UK, would drive up prices.

“The cost implications could be significant if the UK was to have a different set of regulations to the rest of the EU,” HDA UK said.

The pharma supply chain is largely regulated by the EU and a 'Leave' vote would mean the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority would become solely responsible for regulating the UK.

However HDA UK did not explicitly say whether it supported the 'Leave' or 'Remain' campaign.

Pharma and biotech trade bodies and companies have backed the 'Remain' campaign, arguing that a Brexit would dismantle regulatory arrangements, and that the increased costs would discourage pharma from investing in the UK.