Access to medicine after Brexit: Lords ask Minister for clarity

painter removing star from EU flag highlighting access to medicine after Brexit

The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee has written to Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care asking for clarity on access to medicine after Brexit.

They are asking about the Government’s contingency preparations to ensure the UK has continued access to medicines and medical products in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The letter follows an evidence session the Committee held with witnesses from Nuffield Trust, British Association of European Pharmaceutical Distributors and evidence given by officials from the Department for Health and Social Care during a private briefing.

The evidence received suggests there is still concern that a no deal Brexit may limit the availability of medicines and medical products in the UK and that there was little sign to-date of potential delays on the border being addressed.

The Government’s current guidance is to stockpile six weeks’ worth of medicines and medical products in the event of blockages at borders, however medicines with short shelf lives cannot be stockpiled and would have to be flown in.

In the letter, the Committee ask the Government what consideration they have taken into the expense of flying in medical supplies for a six week period and what work has been undertaken to ensure the import of medicines and medical products is treated as a priority at the border in the event of no deal.

The Committee has also asked for answers in other areas including:

  • How confident are you that the contingency measures deployed as an immediate response to secure the supply of medicines and medical products can be sustained beyond the first six weeks after Brexit, should this be required?
  • Can you provide more detail on the tender for additional storage capacity, including: the amount of funding awarded; the size of the storage obtained; and how much of that is for refrigerated storage.
  • What plans has the Government made to secure and prioritise airborne routes for medical products?
  • What are the Government’s plans to encourage drug companies to prioritise introducing new products to market in the UK?

The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee is charged with scrutinising proposed EU legislation on home affairs, health and education before it is agreed, to expose difficulties and propose improvements.

In the past week, the pharmaceutical industry issued its response to the Brexit ‘draft agreement’ and a UK coalition of pharma, NHS and biotech bodies called for patient protection post-Brexit.