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UK pharmaceutical industry likely to lose out after Brexit, MPs warn

Following an inquiry into the impact of Brexit on the pharmaceutical sector, the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee said it found no one at a senior level who could make a positive case for Brexit for pharmaceuticals.

Any small benefits to the pharmaceutical industry from Brexit would be “hugely outweighed” by additional costs or lack of access to existing medicines markets, according to a report by a group of cross-party MPs.

The report also warned that global manufacturers are unlikely to prioritise the UK over the much bigger EU medicines market post-Brexit.

“The potential for new, untapped markets simply does not exist in an already global sector in which the UK is highly engaged,” the report said.

“The best potential approach we found for the UK to grow as a world leader in the development, manufacture and regulation of pharmaceuticals is to maintain as close a relationship with the EU as possible.”

The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee’s report was published on 16 May 2018, following its enquiry into the impact of Brexit on the pharmaceutical sector.

“We found no one involved at a senior level in the sector who was prepared to make a positive case for Brexit for pharmaceuticals,” it said.

And while MPs were encouraged by prime minister Theresa May’s comments in a speech in March 2018 about the need for continued cooperation between the UK and EU on medicines, they said: “The government must now translate words into actions that protect the UK’s status as a world leader for pharmaceuticals.”

The MPs called on the government to “seek the closest possible regulatory cooperation and the minimum border friction possible to ensure the continued success of the industry”.

But they added that the European Commission also has a responsibility to set its position to ensure that “there is no fragmentation of a closely integrated industry that is working to the benefit of patients across Europe”.

In a joint statement, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the UK BioIndustry Association agreed that a Brexit “no deal” would “significantly damage public health, patient access to medicines and the UK’s leading pharmaceutical sector — this must be avoided at all costs”.

“Securing cooperation on the regulation, trade and supply of medicines must be a priority for both the UK government and the EU,” they added.

Peter Ballard, chair of the British Generic Manufacturers Association, said the report illustrates that there is a real risk of the UK becoming a “second tier country behind the United States and the EU with the launch of new medicines being delayed due to different regulatory rules”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204876

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