The prospect of a “no-deal” in Brexit negotiations could seriously hurt the pharmaceutical industry with the flow of medicines and medical products being disrupted for up to six months.
In August, the government urged pharma companies to stockpile an additional six weeks worth of supplies in preparation for potential border delays that will result from no consensus during trade talks with the European Union (EU).
Delays will likely arise from additional border checks and procedures imposed by member states of the EU. Areas of particular concern are Dover and Folkestone, according to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in the Department of Health & Social Care. The “closed loop nature” of these straits can mean that “both exports and imports would be affected.”
In an update from Hancock, it is clear that the contingency plan must be “supplemented with additional actions.”
This means planning alternative routes to ensure products move freely into the United Kingdom (UK). However, there has been no “green light” to suggest the government has officially mobilized their plan. This, along with Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement that the parliamentary vote on Brexit has been postponed, does not sound promising for the flow of pharmaceuticals.
Mike Thompson, CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, advised “immediate action to open up alternative supply routes between the UK and Europe.”
It is easy to imagine the repercussions of a drug shortage in the UK. Biologics like insulin have a short shelf-life and must be stored at a cool 2-8 degrees Celsius. Given that over three million people are living with diabetes in the UK, the demand for insulin will almost certainly exceed the supply. This will likely drive up the cost of insulin, which can be problematic for the National Health Service (NHS).
Still, the future of the pharmaceutical industry in the UK remains uncertain. In preparation for Brexit, industry leaders are working with the UK government to oversee the future of life sciences activities. In addition, the primary pharmaceutical regulatory body, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), has announced its move from London to Amsterdam in March 2019.