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Media And Political Bulletin – 10 April 2019

Media and Political Bulletin

10 April 2019

Media Summary

Brexit ‘already causing medicine shortages’ at pharmacies in England

The Guardian, Lisa O’Carroll, 09 April 2019

The Guardian reports that, according to a body that represents the sector, Brexit has contributed to a shortage of certain medicines at pharmacies in England.

It comes as a medical charity says anxiety over drugs shortages has risen among epilepsy patients because of Brexit, potentially causing them further health issues.

Supply issues partly blamed on Brexit contingency planning have caused an official list of “concession” priced medicines – those drugs for which the NHS will pay a higher than usual tariff – to reach its longest since 2014, when the system was introduced.

See this also reported in The Times, BBC and The Independent

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons, Tabled and Written Questions, 09 April 2019

Catherine West, MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the NHS on the availability of drugs to treat bi-polar disorders in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Catherine West, MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the NHS on the availability of drugs to treat epilepsy in the event of that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Catherine West, MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the NHS on the availability of drugs to treat neuropathic pain in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Catherine West, MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, which drugs has his Department identified as at risk of shortage in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Answered by Stephen Hammond: Leaving the European Union with a ‘deal’ remains the Government’s top priority and would give businesses stability and certainty to prepare for our new relationship with the EU after EU exit. The Department has published guidance to industry and the health and care system to allow them to make informed plans and preparations. This is available on GOV.UK.

On 26 March, we wrote to all other organisations in the health and care system to ask them to continue to prepare for leaving the EU without a ‘deal’.

My Rt. hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care discusses ‘no deal’ contingency plans, including those for the availability of medicines, with a number of stakeholders, including the National Health Service and other Government Departments.

The Department has been working closely with trade bodies, product suppliers, the NHS in England, and the devolved administrations and the Crown Dependencies, to ensure the continuation of the supply of medicines to the whole of the United Kingdom in the event of a ‘no deal’ EU exit. This includes the NHS, social care and the independent sector, and covers licensed medicines (prescription only, pharmacy and general sales list medicines) and unlicensed medicines (specials, investigational medicinal products and UK imports).

We understand that medicines to treat conditions such as epilepsy, bi-polar disorder and neuropathic pain are vitally important to many people in this country. Our contingency plans include sensible mitigations for medicines that come to the UK from or via the EU/European Economic Area, such as precautionary stockpiling by suppliers, to ensure that the supply of essential medicines to patients is not disrupted.

Helen Hayes, MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what contingency plans his Department has to mitigate (a) staff and (b) pharmaceutical shortages in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Answered by Stephen Hammond: The Department continues to monitor and analyse overall staffing levels in the health and social care sectors and we have been monitoring leaver and joiner rates of European Union staff on a regular basis since the 2016 referendum. While we do not expect our exit from the EU to lead to a significant number of health staff leaving on or around exit day, we are not complacent and are continually monitoring staffing levels and working with other Government Departments and local areas to put in place mechanisms to respond to any shortages.

We hugely value the contribution of EU staff working in health and social care and the Government has made it clear that we want them to stay. That is why EU staff in health and social care have had early access to the EU Settlement Scheme since December 2018, allowing them to secure their rights to live and work in the United Kingdom. In March 2019, we put in place legislation that ensures the continued recognition of qualifications from EU countries by all professional regulators covering the health and social care sectors.

This means EU staff who are currently practising in the UK can continue to do so, and that professionals qualified in the European Economic Area and Switzerland can continue to apply for registration after ‘exit day’, even if we leave without a ‘deal’.

Furthermore, the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a vital strategic framework to ensure that over the next 10 years the National Health Service will have the staff it needs, so that nurses and doctors can administer the expert compassionate care they are committed to providing. Baroness Dido Harding, Chair of NHS Improvement, working closely with Sir David Behan, Chair of Health Education England, will lead a number of programmes to develop a detailed workforce implementation plan. Baroness Harding and Sir David will present these initial recommendations to the Department this spring.

On medicines, the Department has been working closely with trade bodies, product suppliers, the NHS in England, and the devolved administrations and Crown Dependencies, to ensure the continuation of the supply of medicines to the whole of the UK in the event of a ‘no deal’ EU exit. This includes the NHS, social care and the independent sector and covers licensed medicines (prescription only, pharmacy and general sales list medicines) and unlicensed medicines (specials, investigational medicinal products and UK imports).

The Department, together with industry and the NHS, has analysed the supply chains of 12,300 medicines and we are grateful for excellent engagement from all parties, which means our plans are well advanced. As a result of this analysis, the Department has put in place a multi-layered approach to minimise any supply disruption.

We are confident that, if everyone does what they need to do, the supply of medicines and medical products will be uninterrupted in the event of exiting the EU without a deal.

Full Coverage

Brexit ‘already causing medicine shortages’ at pharmacies in England

The Guardian, Lisa O’Carroll, 09 April 2019

Brexit has contributed to a shortage of certain medicines at pharmacies in England, according to a body that represents the sector.

It comes as a medical charity says anxiety over drugs shortages has risen among epilepsy patients because of Brexit, potentially causing them further health issues.

Supply issues partly blamed on Brexit contingency planning have caused an official list of “concession” priced medicines – those drugs for which the NHS will pay a higher than usual tariff – to reach its longest since 2014, when the system was introduced.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which draws up the list, said Britain’s planned exit from the EU coupled with manufacturers’ views of the country as a less attractive market had caused these significant problems.

Medicines are usually added to the concessions list when manufacturers or wholesalers raise their prices because of factors such as supply issues. The list is considered a good measure for increases in shortages.

Ninety-six medicines appear on the concessions list, including the common painkiller naproxen and certain morphine products prescribed to cancer patients.

Simon Dukes, the chief executive of PSNC, said: “Community pharmacies are reporting increasing problems sourcing some generic medicines for their patients.”

The PSNC draws up the monthly list with feedback from pharmacists and negotiates concessionary prices with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Dukes said: “Community pharmacy teams are continuing to work hard to ensure that all patients receive the medicines they need when they need them, but we are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact that this is having on already busy pharmacy teams.”

Separately, the Epilepsy Society has said the number of calls to its helpline relating to potential drug shortages has escalated in the last six months.

The charity said supply of the medicines fluctuated all the time but there was a current issue relating to shortages of some of the drugs used to control seizures because of disruption at an EU manufacturer’s plant last summer.

“We’ve had an unprecedented number of call to our helpline and enquiries from people about the supply of medication,” said a spokeswoman.

“In March alone, our helpline [open three days a week] received 18 calls about medication shortages. We would usually receive one call every six months. Our online enquiries have received queries on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day.”

The government has been urging pharmaceutical companies to stockpile six weeks’ worth of essential medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Critics of a no-deal scenario say Britain’s reliance on the EU to import drugs and medical equipment could ramp up costs and cause supply chain issues, with clinics and patients stockpiling, leading to shortages.

Ley Sander, the medical director of the Epilepsy Society, is advising patients not to stockpile. “We understand people’s concerns. However this has the potential to create a shortage of medication itself,” he said.

A spokesman for the DHSC said it accepted there were some supply issues with epilepsy drugs but “both the department and the manufacturers are clear that these supply issues are completely unrelated to EU exit”. He also denied there were wider supply issues.

“There is no evidence the small number of current supply issues we are managing are related to EU exit or increasing because of this,” the spokesman said.

“We have well-established processes to manage and mitigate supply issues from whatever cause, including manufacturing or distribution problems. We are confident that if everyone does what they need to do, the supply of medicines should be uninterrupted in the event of no deal.”

Media And Political Bulletin – 10 April 2019

From Factory to Pharmacy

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