Published on 28 August 2018

The Health and Social Care Secretary has written to pharmaceutical companies with contingency plans in the unlikely event of a “no-deal” Brexit.

It was reported in August that two of the world's biggest drugs firms were stockpiling medicines in case of supply disruptions after Brexit.

France's Sanofi were reported to be increasing its stocks by four weeks to give it a 14 week supply of medicines.

Switzerland's Novartis also said they were preparing for the possibility of a “no-deal” Brexit.

The news caused concern for people with diabetes as Sanofi, which makes insulin, said they were worried about any transport delays following Brexit, as most of its supplies have to cross the Channel.

Hugo Fry, Managing Director of Sanofi UK, said: "The uncertainty in the Brexit negotiations means that Sanofi has been planning for a “no deal” scenario.

"Patient safety is our main priority and we have made arrangements for additional warehouse capacity in order to stockpile our products, where global supply allows, in the UK and increase UK-based resource to prepare for any changes to customs or regulatory processes.”

In a letter sent to pharmaceutical companies suppliers were asked to increase their medicines stocks by at least 6 weeks on top of their usual buffer stocks. In addition they should ensure plans are in place to air freight products with a short shelf life that cannot be stockpiled.

In addition separate contingency plans were being developed for suppliers of medical devices and clinical consumables, with stock holding at a national level to be increased.

Further information will be provided to industry in September.

The Department of Health and Social Care has also published additional guidance for the pharmaceutical industry covering batch testing of medicine, life sciences IT system, tobacco-related products, organs, tissues, cells and blood safety and quality standards.

Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “The government has made significant progress in negotiations with the EU and remains confident we will leave with a good deal for both sides, that supports existing and future healthcare collaboration.

“However, as a responsible government, we continue to prepare proportionately for all scenarios, including the unlikely outcome that we leave the EU without any deal in March 2019.

“Given the significant amount of work that has now been done, I am confident this gives a clear basis for the health and care sector and the life sciences industry to plan so that patients can continue to receive high-quality care unhindered.”

The Association of Medical Research Charities, of which DRWF is a member, responded to the Brexit “no-deal” notices and letters sent by the Health and Social Care Secretary.

Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), said: “Publication of the Brexit no-deal contingency planning needed for the life sciences sector is a welcome but overdue step in the drive to make sure that there is no negative impact on patients whatever the final Brexit deal looks like. But there is still more guidance needed for patients, carers and their families.

“Delays at border controls are clearly anticipated in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. The Secretary of State has written to reassure the public that plans are in place, so patients do not need take action themselves. However, patients, and the medical research charities who support them, will need more clarity that they will still be able to continue to get vital medication in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit.

“Given the tight timeframes, all those affected will need as much support as possible from Government in order to minimise disruption to the development of new treatments, the supply of vital medicines and opportunities to take part in clinical trials.

“We know that we, European patient groups and advocates, all speak with a single voice when we say no one should have their health put at risk by the Brexit deal.”

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