Brexit linked to 'significant' medicines shortage faced by pharmacists

PUBLISHED: 15:44 09 April 2019

Britains exit from the EU is partly to blame for a shortage of medicines Photo: PA / Anthony Devlin

Britains exit from the EU is partly to blame for a shortage of medicines Photo: PA / Anthony Devlin

PA Archive/PA Images

Brexit has contributed to a shortage of some medicines at pharmacies in England, it has been claimed.

Supply issues partly blamed on Brexit planning and contingency have caused an official list of “concession” priced medicines to reach its longest since 2014, when it was first introduced.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which draws up the list, said Britain’s exit from the EU coupled with manufacturers’ views of the country as a “less attractive market” had caused the “significant” problems.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DoHSC) admitted it was managing some supply issues but said there was “no evidence” they were caused by Brexit.

Some 96 medicines now appear on the concessions list, including the common painkiller Naproxen and some morphine products prescribed to cancer patients.

PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said: “Community pharmacies are reporting increasing problems sourcing some generic medicines for their patients.

“While there have always been fluctuations in the number of generic medicines that community pharmacies have been unable to purchase at Drug Tariff prices (prices often rise when there are shortages), we have seen a surge since October 2018.”

Pharmacy contractors are automatically reimbursed for medicines on the list at an amount which is higher than the NHS’s Drug Tariff.

Medicines are usually added when manufacturers or wholesalers up their prices because of factors like shortages or supply issues.

The list is considered a good measure for increases in shortages.

The PSNC draws up the monthly list with feedback from pharmacists and negotiates concessionary prices with the DoHSC.

Mr Dukes said: “Community pharmacy teams are continuing to work hard to ensure that all patients receive the medicines they need when they need them, but we are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact that this is having on already busy pharmacy teams.”

The government has been urging pharmaceutical companies to stockpile six weeks’ worth of essential medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Critics of no-deal say Britain’s reliance on the EU to import drugs and medical equipment could ramp up costs and cause issues in the supply chain.

A DoHSC spokesman said: “There is no evidence the small number of current supply issues we are managing are related to EU exit or increasing because of this.

“We have well-established processes to manage and mitigate supply issues from whatever cause, including manufacturing or distribution problems.

“We are confident that if everyone does what they need to do, the supply of medicines should be uninterrupted in the event of a no-deal.”

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