National Pharmacy Association position on Brexit

25 Nov 2020

Medicines prices, licensing of medicinal products, international safety protocols and health sector workforce will all be impacted by the UK’s departure from the EU, following the end of the transition period, 31 December 2020.

The UK Government also accepts that – in the event of a no deal Brexit at the end of the transition period – the reliance of the medicines supply chain on the channel crossings makes medicines vulnerable to extended delays. (Three quarters of medicines used in the UK are imported via the short straights, i.e. into Dover and Folkestone).

The Department of Health and Social Care has taken a multi-layered approach to mitigating the risk of delays.  We welcome the steps they have taken, but it is not possible to predict exactly what will happen in the run up to31st December 2020, on that day itself, and in the months to follow.

Adding to the complexity is the requirement for Northern Ireland to continue to comply with EU medicines regulations that will no longer apply in Great Britain. We welcome the recent agreement between the UK government and the European Union to phase implementation of the EU Falsified Medicines Directive in NI, up to 31 December 2021 – giving more time to plan key elements of FMD compliance.

Maintaining a safe and effective medicines supply service continues to be our primary focus, because timely supply of medicines is important to patient well-being.

To this end, we remain in regular dialogue with Government and regulators about preparations for Brexit.

Last year we successfully argued for legislation allowing pharmacists to substitute medicines that are in short supply with suitable alternatives (‘Serious Shortage Protocols’).

We recommend two further steps to safeguard against unnecessary delays to the supply of medicines to patients:

–       Changes to medicines legislation to empower pharmacists in the community to use their professional judgment to make simple substitutions when a medicine is out of stock. This will allow pharmacists to take action to help patients get their medicines in a timely fashion, without the need for referral back to a GP.

–       Allowing pharmacies to share medicines with each other if one or more pharmacies run short of a particular line. This flexibility was available to pharmacies until a few years ago and it should now be reintroduced.

Meanwhile, our advice to patients who take regular prescribed medicines is to order your repeat medicines before your current supply runs out. By not leaving it to the last minute, you will be helping your doctor and pharmacist to get the medicines you need, when and where you need them, without unnecessary delays.

Whatever the Brexit scenario that finally emerges, pharmacists will put the needs of patients first, as they always do.