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European Union

No-deal Brexit could hit drug supply on continent too, ABPI head warns

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, has warned that disruption to drug supply as a result of Brexit could also affect EU member states after Brexit.

Pile of medicine blister packs


Should the UK leave the EU with a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, patients in the remaining member states may be left struggling with a disrupted drug supply, Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, has warned

European governments have failed to recognise the impact a no-deal Brexit will have on their own medicine supply chains, the head of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has warned.

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the ABPI, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that a no-deal Brexit would not only impact the 37 million packs of drugs imported into the UK from across the EU each month, but will also hit the 45 million packs that travel in the opposite direction from the UK to the rest of the EU.

Supply chains in France, Germany and the Netherlands would be the most vulnerable as they have the biggest share of drugs coming from the UK, he said.

Thompson added that while the drug industry understood the potential risk to supply chains across Europe, the same consensus did not exist at government-level.

He told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “I think that Brexit is a high priority in the UK, more than it is in other member states. My concern is that other member states don’t quite understand that is their patients — and not just those in the UK — which need to be protected as well.”

UK drug manufacturers have, since the end of 2017, been taking steps to mitigate the impact of a no-deal Brexit, which includes preparing to hold “in excess of buffer stocks”, he revealed.

And although ministers have spoken about making it a priority to protect the UK medicines supply chain, he admitted: “It’s become difficult for either the UK government or the EU to give us any real clarity on which [Brexit] scenario we should be planning for.”

He added: “ We are working with our members to understand where the pressure points are and to make sure that we do everything we can to continue to supply medicines to patients across the whole of Europe.”

The ABPI is also calling on the UK and the EU to mutually recognise the quality assurance of drugs either side of the UK/EU borders so that drug companies do not have to invest time and money creating duplicate quality assurance systems after Brexit.

“If they continue to recognise quality assurance of manufactured products that happens in each other’s jurisdiction, that will help us to [devote time and investment] on some of the other [supply chain] issues,” he said.

Thompson’s warnings about the potential impact of Brexit on EU patient’s medicine supply follow similar comments from drug giant AstraZeneca on 3 August 2018.

Ad Antonisse, the company’s Dutch external affairs director, told the Brexitloket website: “If we do not prepare well for Brexit, patients in the EU may no longer be able to receive their medicines.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205307

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