Northern Ireland protocol: NPA calls for medicines deal

09 Jul 2021

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) today issued a fresh appeal to Brexit negotiators to reach an understanding that will allow manufacturers and suppliers to continue to supply medicines as normal to Northern Ireland.

Under the Northern Ireland protocol, part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, medicines made in UK have to be licensed separately for use in the country including separate safety inspections and other checks before they can be given to the public.

It came into force on 1 January 2021, and is now part of international law.

The NPA board discussed this issue during its board meetings on 28-29 June. NPA board representative for Northern Ireland, Michael Guerin, said:

“This situation, if unresolved, will be intolerable for NPA members and patients in Northern Ireland. We are deeply concerned that the additional cost and complexity of getting medicines into Northern Ireland will result in some manufacturers and suppliers not bringing products to the market. This could result in reduced stock being available, leading to medicine shortages and an increase in the procurement costs.

“The medicines supply to Northern Ireland is integrated into the UK market and works on a just in time basis. Close alignment of regulations would help to limit future disruption. We urge the EU and the UK to address this issue urgently and not leave it for patients, carers, pharmacists and GPs to pick up the problem further down the line.

“On behalf of its members the NPA has been working with key stakeholders including the MHRA, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) and the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA), to amplify concerns to all parties in the negotiations.”

Other topics discussed at the NPA board this month included the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, covid costs, supervision and pharmacy IT. The board also welcomed the chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland, Harry McQuillan, who shared his organisation’s vision of a clinically-based future for the sector.