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Health Secretary quizzed on post-Brexit stockpiling plans

On November 22 the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock for clarity on the government’s contingency plans for medicines access post-Brexit, as well as the estimated costs in the event that no deal is reached before the March 29 deadline.

 

Hancock appeared before the Health & Social Care Committee in October to provide information on the government’s plans for a no-deal scenario and the possible implications of a shortage of medicines.

There he told the committee that the Government is committed to provide support with the costs, and has taken steps to ensure that there will be a 6-week supply of medicines available in the UK following agreements with manufacturers.

Chaired by Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, the Committee also held an evidence session with witnesses from the Nuffield Trust and British Association of European Pharmaceutical Distributors, as well as evidence from a private briefing in which concerns were raised over the logistics of ensuring there would be no disruption to the UK’s access to medicines.

Press reports since July 2018 have reported there will be an inevitable shortage of certain medicines, and in August the Health Secretary wrote to GPs to say they will not need “to take any steps to stockpile additional drugs”, write longer prescriptions or over-order medication.

The Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA), which represents UK pharmaceutical distributors, estimated that nearly half of UK medicines are imported from EU nations, a significant number that will impact both sides, making contingency plans into a necessity to ensure patient access and safety. They said that here was now the real prospect of supply shortages and medicines price rises for the NHS, as well as the impact on patients in need of critical treatments.

In a letter from the Health Committee, the chairman requested a list of medicines and medicinal products where there is a risk of shortages, as well as the government’s plans to continue supplying to the UK. In addition, they also wish to see medicines which cannot be switched without creating disruption to patient treatment and contingency plans from the DoH.

The letter also asks what analysis has been carried out on the impact to businesses on stockpiling medicines and the financial impact this can cause to small businesses, as well as clarification on why the government is asking businesses to sign a non-disclosure agreements;

“While such agreements may be appropriate to protect the commercial interests of the companies involved, we are concerned that any agreements signed must not pose a barrier to the disclosure of information, now and in the future, that may be in the public interest”.

For more analysis of the recent news surrounding Brexit, click here to take a look at our article on what it all means for those of us working in primary care.


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