Patients may have to build drug stockpiles in ‘no deal’ Brexit

Representatives of the pharma industry and drug distributors have told an influential committee of MPs that patients should consider stockpiling their own drugs if a “no deal” Brexit scenario looks likely.

The Guardian reported that the Commons health committee heard that no deal will be “catastrophic” for medicine supplies and could necessitate emergency powers.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and the Healthcare Distributors Association, representing wholesalers, said there was an urgent need for a Brexit agreement to ensure patients receive the medicines they need.

While manufacturers are stockpiling several weeks’ worth of drugs, these contingency plans are insufficient, according to the ABPI’s chief executive, Mike Thompson.

There are no facilities at ports to store drugs at low temperatures in the event of delays, said Thompson.

“I think we also need to be honest with government and with parliament to say that there are more things that need to be done in a no deal and I think we’ve got to the stage of recognising that stockpiling won’t be enough and we need to put in place the next phase of plans,” he said.

Martin Sawer, executive director of the Healthcare Distributors Association, said patients might need to think about building their own drug stockpiles.

“We need politicians to understand that there could be consequences of a no-deal, and those are the consequences.

“We’re not suggesting anyone needs to stockpile outside of the supply chain yet, but come January that might be a different picture.

“We are, we believe, going to be in a difficult situation if there is not a deal by Christmas.”

Sawer pointed out that around 50% of medicines in wholesalers’ depots have been through the EU before they get to UK warehouses.

The shortages caused by “no deal” could lead to “emergency powers”, according to Sawer, which could include pharmacists being permitted to replace one type of drug with another, without approval from a patient’s GP.

Health secretary Matt Hancock later told the committee he was not considering such powers, saying he was confident that there will be an “unhindered supply” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Chris Wormald, chief civil servant at the Department of Health and Social Care, said that supplies will depend on how France will respond to border checks in a “no deal” situation – something that the government does not control.

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