Brexit and medicines

Brexit and medicines

Brexit continues to dominate the news agenda and is likely to do so for some time as we head ever closer to the 31 October, the date the UK is due to leave the European Union.

There has much discussion about what will happen post Brexit, particularly in the event that a no-deal Brexit takes place. Many Mature Times readers will be on medication of various sorts and will have read stories in the media about likely shortages post 31 October, particularly in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

So what is the current position?

The official line is that the government is working closely with the NHS and suppliers to help to ensure medicines and medical products continue to be available for patients if there is a “no deal” Brexit.

The advice from the NHS is for people to keep ordering their repeat prescriptions and taking their medicines as normal. It is unnecessary to change how you order and take your medicines. However, they caution against stockpiling medicines, by asking for several prescriptions prior to 31 October as to do so could risk putting pressure on the availability of medicines for other people.

However, the public should be aware that the government has put in place contingency measures to help ensure medicines continue to be available. Some of these contingency measures include:

  • Building buffer stocks in the UK – the government has recommended that suppliers of medicines build up at least 6 weeks’ extra stocks above their usual buffer stock levels in preparation for Brexit. It has secured additional warehouse capacity for the stockpiled medicines. These stocks will continue to be replenished when used.
  • Giving transport priority for medicines – the government is buying extra space on ferries on which all medicines and medical products will be prioritised for import to the UK. It is also buying an express freight service to deliver medical products where there is an urgent need.
  • Preparing medicines suppliers – the government is working with medicine suppliers to improve readiness for new border arrangements and has encouraged re-routing how medicines enter the country.

The legal side of medicine supply also has to be considered. In this regard the government is also making sure that medicines, devices and clinical trials licensed or tested in the EU can continue to be used in the UK in the event of a “no deal” Brexit, by amending regulations.

Disruption in supply

It is actually not all that unusual for the NHS to experience temporary disruption to the supply of some medicines so as an organisation it is well versed in dealing with this problem. It has tried-and-tested ways of making sure you get your medicines and medical products, even under difficult circumstances.

However, in the unlikely event your medicine is temporarily unavailable, the NHS and its skilled workers will discuss with you ways to prescribe the best alternative. This could typically be a different brand of medicine or perhaps lower strength medicines to make up the same dose.

On rare occasions it may mean a different medicine to the one that you usually take, but any decision to change your medicines will first be discussed with you by your prescriber who will be provided with all the necessary information on how best to do this. This will ensure your treatment continues as normal. The NHS, through your local GP surgery, pharmacy and/or hospital, will help you to stay informed if there are any changes.

If you are at all concerned then you are urged to speak with your doctor or pharmacist.