Brexit could result in nationwide medicines shortages and rising medicines prices for the NHS if the needs of the sector are not taken into account during negotiations, the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA UK) has said. The HDA's Council has published an open letter to the government officials involved in Brexit negotiations, calling for them to consider the impact that a ‘hard’ Brexit (in which the UK leaves the EU Single Market and Customs Union) could have on the safe and effective distribution of medicines.
The HDA represents the companies that deliver 92 per cent of NHS medicines. Its main concern, it says, “regards the ability of our companies to parallel import medicines into the UK”, which is currently facilitated by the common trademarks system that applies across the European Economic Area. Leaving the single market could mean that these common trademark regulations no longer apply in the UK, in which case the import of vital medicines would involve a longer, more complicated process.
The Council writes: “There is a high probability that this could then result in an increased risk of medicines shortages in the UK and a rise in the cost of medicines for the NHS.
“In short, parallel imports of medicines into the UK provide both certainty of supply, when there is not enough UK stock (because of a sudden spike in demand), and incentivised purchasing competition, which saves the NHS over £100m per annum, on current estimates).”
The Council also cites the potential loss of equivalence with the European medicines licensing regime as a factor that could affect patients and businesses, saying that manufacturers “may choose not to market their product in the UK at all due to the associated costs and relatively small population compared to the area covered by the broader European licensing regime.”
Finally, the authors voice their concerns about the impact of Brexit on the healthcare workforce: “The healthcare sector, from research scientists in pharmaceutical companies, to pharmacists in hospitals and the community, benefits from skilled workers from the EU”.
The letter concludes by saying that HDA UK “looks forward to working with the Government, regulators and supply chain partners to ensure that UK patients are not negatively affected by the vote to leave the European Union”.