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3 September 2019Big PharmaSarah Morgan

No-deal Brexit could ‘irreparably’ harm NHS and delay drugs: BMA

Leaving the EU without a deal in place could “irreparably” harm the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and lead to delays in new products being bought to market in the country, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

“From disruption to essential medicine supplies, patient healthcare and the movement of highly skilled doctors to the potential return of a hard border in Northern Ireland, there are no winners,” said Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, in a paper published yesterday, September 2.

According to the BMA, a no-deal Brexit on November 1 will cause “irreparable harm” to the NHS and “catastrophically exacerbate” the challenges posed by a winter pressures crisis.

The briefing paper outlined the dangers and likely consequences posed by a no-deal Brexit, including the effect on the supply of medicines and medical research.

A no-deal Brexit would lead to considerable uncertainty about the UK’s ability to ensure a continuous supply of medicines into the country, said the paper.

Last month, a leaked UK government report revealed a no-deal Brexit may result in shortages of medicines and other pharmaceutical products.

The UK Department of Transport estimated that, in the worst-case scenario, flow rates across the English Channel between the UK and France “could be as low as 40% on day one of no deal”. According to the document, significant disruption could last up to six months after the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Earlier in August, several pharma bodies signed non-disclosure agreements which prevent them from disclosing the UK government’s plans for a no-deal Brexit.

According to the BMA, in the months building up to March 2019, the government and NHS put a series of measures designed to ensure continuity in place, including stockpiling, regulatory flexibility, and the purchase of additional freight capacity.

But, despite this, many media reports of shortages surfaced with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, a non-governmental organisation, reporting an all-time high of 96 medicines in shortage in March 2019.

“While there were likely to be a number of contributing factors, it is reasonable to suggest that the possibility of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, and the public uncertainty that was created, may have had some role in these shortages,” said the BMA.

The association noted that the uncertainty highlights the need for concise and easy to understand messaging for the whole healthcare sector and that this advice should be delivered early enough to allow the NHS to prepare.

The BMA added that, over the longer-term, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could also significantly slow down the availability of new drugs for patients in the UK. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will take on the work of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

“Regulating medicines on its own, outside of the EMA, the UK will be a much smaller market for medicines, coupled with already tight margins for medicines, this means the UK will be less of a priority market leading to delays in new products being bought to market in the UK,” said the paper.

The BMA goes on state that it has been suggested that a separate regulatory system to the EMA could lead to delays of 12 to 24 months for UK patients being able to access lifesaving cancer drugs.

Research collaborations

Between January 2007 and March 2017, the UK received the highest level of funding (£1.2 billion) among all EU countries for health-related research projects from EU funding programmes Framework Programme 7 (2007-2013) and Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), said the BMA.

“While the UK’s decision to leave the EU does not in itself prevent collaboration, it damages the UK’s scientific reputation and appeal for researchers. This in turn could reduce training and career opportunities for researchers,” added the paper.

No-deal Brexit risks limiting the UK’s ability to translate research into medicines and medical devices into products to bring to the market, according to the association, which added that Brexit will increase the burden of conducting multi-centre clinical trials and create barriers to working collaboratively and sharing expertise, facilities and datasets.

Ultimately, the association expects this to delay the development of and access to new medicines and devices across Europe.

Nagpaul added: “Let us be clear: we are not ‘the doubters, the doomsters or the gloomsters’ the Prime Minister described on the steps of Downing Street. Nor is this ‘Project Fear’. We are doctors who day-in and day-out, provide care for patients in the face of challenges that will only be made worse by a ‘no deal’ Brexit in the critical winter months following October 31.”

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More on this story

Big Pharma
16 August 2019   Several pharma bodies have signed non-disclosure agreements which prevent them from disclosing the UK government’s plans for a no-deal Brexit.
Big Pharma
21 August 2019   A leaked UK government report reveals that a no deal Brexit may result in shortages of medicines and other pharmaceutical products.

More on this story

Big Pharma
16 August 2019   Several pharma bodies have signed non-disclosure agreements which prevent them from disclosing the UK government’s plans for a no-deal Brexit.
Big Pharma
21 August 2019   A leaked UK government report reveals that a no deal Brexit may result in shortages of medicines and other pharmaceutical products.

More on this story

Big Pharma
16 August 2019   Several pharma bodies have signed non-disclosure agreements which prevent them from disclosing the UK government’s plans for a no-deal Brexit.
Big Pharma
21 August 2019   A leaked UK government report reveals that a no deal Brexit may result in shortages of medicines and other pharmaceutical products.