European nations weigh impact of Brexit on drug supplies

  • World
  • Tuesday, 15 Jan 2019

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament, ahead of a vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, in London, Britain, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

FRANKFURT/DUBLIN (Reuters) - Germany's drug safety regulator has concluded that Brexit will not put its patients at risk of losing access to essential drugs while Ireland has drawn up a watch list of some 24 medicines whose supply would be most vulnerable if Britain crashes out without a divorce deal.

Between 60 and 70 percent of medicines on the Irish market either come from, or transit through the United Kingdom and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said a working group of health officials has been meeting weekly for the last two years to examine any potential supply disruptions.

"They have decided against stockpiling, their advice is stockpiling itself may actually cause a break in supply but they are working very closely with the pharmaceutical industry and the main wholesalers to make sure there is an adequate supply," Varadkar told parliament.

"They have identified a watch list of about 24 medicines that we would be most concerned about."

For its part, Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) last year ordered the country's main drug industry associations to gather information on the effect of a no-deal Brexit.

"For BfArm, the analysis has led to the conclusion that no shortages of medicines that are deemed critical are to be expected," the watchdog said on its website.

More than 2,600 drugs have some stage of manufacture in Britain and 45 million patient packs are supplied from the UK to other European countries each month, while another 37 million flow in the opposite direction, industry figures show.

The British government has asked UK drugmakers to build an additional six weeks of medicine stockpiles to prepare for any no-deal Brexit - a target the industry has said will be challenging.

The EU's drugs regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said last August that it and national regulators had set up a task force to minimise supply disruptions arising over the next two years, adding that Brexit would likely affect the availability of medicines in the EU.

The Europe-wide drugs watchdog EMA is moving from London to Amsterdam, prompting many drugmakers to prepare duplicate product testing and licensing arrangements.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and Padraic Halpin in Dublin)

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