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UK Warns Again: No-Deal Brexit Could Disrupt Medicine Supplies

Posted 12 September 2019 | By Zachary Brennan 

UK Warns Again: No-Deal Brexit Could Disrupt Medicine Supplies

The UK government on Wednesday published a previously sensitive document explaining how a no-deal Brexit beginning on 31 October could strain trade across the English Channel for up to six months.

“The reliance of medicines and medical products’ supply chains on the short straits crossing make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays; three-quarters of medicines come via the short straits,” the document, first drafted in August and dubbed “Operation Yellowhammer,” says.

The document explains how medicine and medical supply chains are highly regulated and require transportation that meets strict Good Distribution Practices.

“This can include limits on time of transit, or mean product must be transported under temperature-controlled conditions. Whilst some products can be stockpiled, others cannot due to short shelf lives - it will also not be practical to stockpile products to cover expected delays of up to six months.”

The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it is developing a “multi-layered approach” to mitigate these risks. DHSC also previously established a £25 million contract to set up a 12-month express freight service to deliver medicines and medical products into the country.

Sheuli Porkess, director of research, medical and innovation at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said in a statement: “Government measures have supported these preparations. Companies now need the practical detail on how some of these measures, like additional freight capacity, will work in practice.”  

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has published a series of no-deal Brexit guidance documents to help with such a transition.

The government document also notes that disruptions to reduce, delay or stop the supply of medicines for UK veterinary use “would reduce our ability to prevent and control disease outbreaks, with potential detrimental impacts for animal health and welfare, the environment, and wider food safety/availability and zoonotic diseases which can directly impact human health. Industry stockpiling will not be able to match the 4-12 weeks’ worth of stockpiling which took place in March 2019. Air freight capacity and the special import scheme is not a financially viable mitigation to fully close risks associated with all UK veterinary medicine availability issues due to border disruption.”

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