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12 February 2019Big Pharma

UK could lose out on Europe-wide drug safety system post-Brexit

UK patients could be more exposed to counterfeit medicines than EU patients in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, because access to an initiative aimed at protecting patients from fake drugs could be lost.

The European system, which came into force on Saturday, February 9, allows drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies, GP surgeries and hospitals to verify and authenticate the packet of medicine throughout the supply chain.

However, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has warned that the UK will drop out from the new system, called the European Medicines Verification System (EMVS), in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

This would leave NHS patients more exposed to the dangers of fake medicines than other patients in the EU, according to the ABPI.

Under the system, drug makers and parallel importers must add new security features to packets of medicines, including unique serial numbers and 2D barcodes.

EMVS was built to support the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), a directive that the UK has contributed to, said the ABPI. According to the association, pharmaceutical companies, along with partners, have led the way in funding and setting up the system in the UK over the past two years.

Rick Greville, director of supply chain at the ABPI, said: “It would be an absolute travesty if NHS patients aren’t part of a system specifically designed to protect them. But that’s exactly what could happen in a ‘no deal’ Brexit. It is just another reason why we urgently need a Brexit deal.”

Niall Dickson, chair of the Brexit Health Alliance (BHA), an alliance of NHS, medical research, industry, patients and public health organisations, added: “It would be a tragedy were the UK not to be a part of this new system which ultimately protects patients from fake medicines.

“And it is another reason why the growing prospect of leaving the EU with no deal is a matter of such concern.”

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