LONDON, 21 Dec (APM) - The stockpiling of medicines in the UK in preparation for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could be leading to drug shortages in Ireland, a leading pharmacist has said, according to media reports on Friday.
Darragh O’Loughlin, secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), told The Times that medicines' shortages were “increasingly prominent” in Ireland and that they had coincided with guidance from the UK government for pharma companies to stockpile six weeks’ supply of drugs in the expectation of customs delays (APMHE 61124
He told the paper: “We can’t draw an absolute link between Brexit preparations and the medicine shortages but we do know that medicines in Ireland are in short supply and that it is happening at the same time the UK was told to start stockpiling.”
O’Loughlin’s comments came after the IPU published a statement
on Thursday saying that contingency planning for the supply of medicines must be a “top government priority” as the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal becomes more of a possibility.
Ireland’s drug supply is heavily reliant on its relationship with the UK; almost 70% of medicines supplied in Ireland come from or through the UK and six out of 10 medicines in Irish pharmacies share packaging or leaflets with the UK market, said the IPU.
There are also issues with batch release testing, which is the process whereby a sample of a batch of medicines is tested to make sure it has the right active ingredient and that the product is what it should be.
In the EU there is a regulatory requirement that this process must be carried out in an EU country, posing a problem for the UK’s potential ability to import and export medicines after Brexit if the two sides do not come to a trade agreement.
The IPU said that if drugs imported from the UK do require additional batch release testing it could risk delays in the delivery of medicines to wholesalers and to pharmacies and it would also generate additional costs for suppliers.
O’Loughlin called on the government to support the industry to overcome these issues and come up with a sustainable resolution, saying that stockpiling is “not a feasible solution” to any medicines supply difficulties post Brexit.
“Even if pharmacies and wholesalers had the physical storage space to do so, this would still only be a short-term measure. We need clear guidance and practical solutions to benefit patients. There is an urgent requirement for a transition period to be agreed with our EU partners so that we can plan for any new testing or packaging requirements.”