News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 22 February 2021

Media Summary

Sussex medicines firm takes production line abroad in white van to beat Brexit ban
The Guardian, Lisa O’Carroll, 21 February

The Guardian reports that a Sussex-based pharmaceutical company had to bundle its production line into a van and take it to the Netherlands to beat a Brexit medicines ban. The impromptu move secured the supply of an asthma drug for France, where the company, Mediwin, had a huge order book.

Lisa Cooke, Mediwin’s Finance Director, said the company – specialising in parallel importation and distribution – had been preparing for Brexit since the referendum but had not counted on an overnight block on wholesale distribution from the UK into EU member states. Under the EU single market freedoms known as “parallel distribution”, Mediwin was allowed to buy drugs from one member state and repackage them for another member state at lower prices.

“We had stockpiled supplies, particularly of Ventolin because it was being sold in huge quantities in France and we were getting anxious that we would run out,” she said. “So our production manager hired a van and took five machines – which was essentially one production line – to the Netherlands.”

Cooke added that while she hoped to replace the EU sales with UK custom over time, she had to slash production and work hours for staff in the UK, with the company planning for further financial investment abroad including in Spain and other EU countries.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Letter from the Secretary of State for Wales, regarding the flow of pharmaceutical products between the UK and EU
Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales, 19 February

A letter from Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales, addressed to Stephen Crabb MP, Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, has been published. In the letter, Mr Hart addresses questions regarding the flow of pharmaceutical products between the UK and the EU.

The letter reiterates that Mr Hart hosted a roundtable with key Welsh businesses and representative organisations to discuss the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) last December. The potential issue of the TCA not including reciprocal arrangements on medicines regulation was discussed at this meeting. Following this, officials from HM Revenue and Customs and other government departments have liaised closely with companies concerned to seek to resolve a range of issues relating to exporting medicines to the EU.

The letter also notes that the TCA does not include mutual recognition of regulatory regimes in relation to pharmaceuticals and medical devices, except for the mutual recognition of Good Manufacturing Practice certificates. Medicinal products are now regulated in the UK separately from the EU and companies must comply with the relevant requirements for the market in which the product will be sold. The UK has accepted some EU rules on medicines transitionally, for two years after the end of the Transition Period, ensuring continuity in the supply of medicines and to give industry time to adjust. However, companies must meet all EU requirements in full to continue to place medicinal products on the EU market.

You can read the letter in full here.

 

Full Coverage

Sussex medicines firm takes production line abroad in white van to beat Brexit ban
The Guardian, Lisa O’Carroll, 21 February

A Sussex pharmaceutical company has told how it had to bundle a production line into a white van and take it to Amsterdam to beat a Brexit medicines ban.

The impromptu four-wheeled mission to the Netherlands has secured the supply of the asthma drug Ventolin for France, where the company, Mediwin, had a huge order book.

Lisa Cooke, its Finance Director, said the company had been preparing for Brexit since the referendum but had not counted on an overnight block on wholesale distribution from the UK into EU member states.

“It was a bit of a white-knuckle ride a couple of weeks ago. We had stockpiled supplies, particularly of Ventolin because it was being sold in huge quantities in France and we were getting anxious that we would run out,” she said. “So our production manager hired a van and took five machines – which was essentially one production line – to the Netherlands. He got the line up and running. We’ve rented an apartment and got six people working over there now. And so far we’ve hired 15 people in the Netherlands and they want another 10 or 11.”

Under the EU single market freedoms known as “parallel distribution”, Mediwin was allowed to buy drugs for a range of conditions, including type 2 diabetes, glaucoma and atrial fibrillation, from one member state and repackage them for another member state at lower prices.

In a blow to the British company, production lines in Littlehampton are now at near standstill while assembly ramps up in the Netherlands. Further expansion will take place in Spain and other EU countries.

“To put things into context we usually receive around 75 pallets of stock a week – in January we have received two,” Cooke said.

She said while she hoped over time to replace the EU sales with UK custom, it had been heartbreaking to have to slash production and work hours for staff in the UK. “I’ve got about 70 people at the moment who I’ve had to ask to half their hours,” she said. “It has been horrible, absolutely horrible.”

The drastic measures are a reflection of the lack of preparation time pharma firms were given for the new Brexit rules. Other companies have also been hit by sudden trade barriers. Two weeks ago it emerged that a Welsh pharma company producing a cancer drug with a short shelf life had moved its production to Dublin to keep supplies going for patients across the EU.

Ian Price, the Director of the Confederation of British Industry in Wales, said the company, which did not want to be named, had to discard 200 to 300 consignments destined for the EU because of the new Brexit trade barriers.

Cooke said Mediwin was being forced to lay off 45 people in the UK. “We were going to invest in a site in the UK a couple of years ago we we needed to expand. That £2m investment has gone to Spain. We’ve got a fabulous new production facility which will come online in Barcelona, in two or three months time,” she said.

“Once we had the Brexit vote, we knew that we were in significant danger for a number of reasons, so our growth plans for the UK stopped almost immediately. We started investing in Barcelona. We have had to merge our main UK trading company with a Spanish group company to protect licences.”

The company had built up a booming trade in wholesale medicine supply, going from 19 employees 10 years ago, to a workforce of 150 in 2020.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 22 February 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

As part of our mission to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the healthcare distribution sector, we developed an infographic explaining the availability of medicines. It identifies the factors that can impact drug supply, as well as the measures that HDA members undertake day in, day out to help mitigate the risks of patients not receiving their medicines.

See the Infographic

Apply to become a Member

Membership of the HDA guarantees your organisation:

  • Access to leading policy and industry forums of debate and discussion
  • Invitations to a range of networking industry events organised through the year, including an Annual Conference and a Business Day
  • Representation on HDA working parties, including the Members’ Liaison Group
  • A daily Political and Media Bulletin and HDA Newsletters
  • Access to HDA policy documents and all sections of the HDA website
  • Branding and marketing opportunities
Apply Now

Already a Member?