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Media And Political Bulletin – 11 January 2019

Media and Political Bulletin

11 January 2019

Media Summary

New junior minister: Former Conservative Party MP, Nicola Blackwood, is a new Undersecretary of State for Health after Lord James O’Shaughnessy stepped down for personal reasons.

Health department signs two contracts to store drugs under ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Guardian, Ben Quinn, 11 January 2018

The Guardian reports that the government has signed two contracts to secure warehouse space for the storage of drugs as part of ‘no-deal’ Brexit planning, but ‘officials are still working to secure a third,’ with just 11 weeks to go before the UK leaves the EU.

The article also states that a claim by the secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, that his department had paid for 5,000 industrial-sized refrigerators, appears not to have been entirely accurate, however. While the warehouses have refrigeration capacity, the department has not purchased individual fridges, the Guardian has been told.

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons, Tabled and Written Questions, 10 January 2019

Ben Bradshaw, MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of producing generic medicines and insulin in the UK as a solution to the potential availability and pricing issues caused by the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Answered by Stephen Hammond: There is already considerable manufacturing of generic medicines in the United Kingdom, but the majority of generic medicines are manufactured abroad, both in the European Union and beyond. For insulin, there is very little manufacturing in the UK and most of it is manufactured in the EU. The Department has put plans in place for the continued supply of medicines after the UK leaves the EU, focused on those medicines that are imported from the EU. This includes pharmaceutical companies stockpiling an additional six weeks’ supply and prioritisation of medicines and medical products at the border.

Increasing manufacturing of generic medicines and insulin in the UK is not a short-term solution as this would require companies to invest in, set up and license manufacturing facilities in the UK as well as applying for marketing authorisations, all of which take years. In addition, there is insufficient evidence that this would result in lower prices compared to manufacture abroad.

Jenny Chapman, MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to page 82 of the NHS Long Term Plan, what specific reforms to reimbursement and supply arrangements for community pharmacy his Department is considering.

Answered by Steve Brine: As outlined in the published final package of, ‘Community Pharmacy in 2016/17 and beyond’1, the Government is committed to pursuing a number of reimbursement reforms and taking steps to improve the prescription ordering journey to maximise patient choice and convenience.

The reimbursement reforms include:

– ‘non Part VIII’ products, i.e. products with no reimbursement price listed in Part VIII of the Drug Tariff;

– changes to Category M for certain generic medicines to better reflect their market price;

– changes to the margin survey to account for multiple suppliers for Non Part VIII products and Category C products;

– ‘splitting the discount’- to reflect that in general generic medicines have increased margin over brands; and

– changes to the way Category A prices are set.

The Government has also recently committed to reforming reimbursement arrangements for specials.

Full Coverage

Health department signs two contracts to store drugs under ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Guardian, Ben Quinn, 11 January 2018

The government has signed two contracts to secure warehouse space for the storage of drugs as part of ‘no-deal’ Brexit planning but officials are still working to secure a third with just 11 weeks to go before the UK leaves the EU.

Details of the Department of Health’s work on one of the most sensitive areas of Brexit planning emerged as the government comes under intensive pressure to say which firms it is working with following controversy over a £13.8m contract given to a ‘start-up’ freight company to operate ferries in the case of no deal, and questions about the way it was allocated.

The chair of the public accounts committee, Meg Hillier, has condemned the secrecy around the allocation of Brexit-related contracts as “ridiculous” and said this week that she would be asking the National Audit Office to investigate about £75m worth of Brexit consultancy deals signed with companies such as Deloitte, Accenture and PwC.

Following queries by the Guardian, the Department of Health said that two contracts for warehousing had been signed shortly before Christmas and a third is expected to be signed “in the very near future”. It is understood officials hope this will be in the coming days or weeks.

The total cost is in the region of £10m, according to the DoH, which said it would publish the names of successful contractors when the tender process is complete and all contracts have been signed.

A claim by the secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, that his department had paid for 5,000 industrial-sized refrigerators, appears not to have been entirely accurate, however. While the warehouses have refrigeration capacity, the department has not purchased individual fridges, the Guardian has been told.

Instead, a reply from one of Hancock’s ministerial deputies, Stephen Hammond, to a parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb stated that agreements had been signed for storage, including refrigerated storage, for around 5,000 pallets.

Hammond told the Labour MP Luciana Berger, who asked a separate question, that funding had been agreed on the condition that the additional medicine warehousing capacity was in place in time to accommodate stockpiled medicines by the beginning of February.

“To reassure participating companies, we have committed to treating all information received confidentially, securely and to using it only for the purposes of the department’s programme. That means not introducing information about a company or a specific medicine into the public domain,” he added.

However, Berger called for more details to be made public, adding: “There should be nothing to stop the government telling us who the refrigeration contracts are being awarded to, even if that does not tell us which medicines they will contain.

“The details we have been given so far are extremely open ended and I am particularly concerned after the debacle surrounding Seaborne Freight. We need to know who these contracts are being awarded to.”

Lamb, a former health minister, said meanwhile: “It is really horrifying to see the Department of Health spending a fortune on fridges when there are so many other pressing priorities.

“When we know that a ‘no-deal’ is absolutely avoidable, this is a scandalous waste of money. The government will be held responsible for the reckless waste of public money.”

Concerns have already been expressed that Britain is running out of food warehousing space as retailers and manufacturers rush to stockpile amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit. The Guardian reported in November that frozen and chilled food warehouses are fully booked for the next six months, with customers being turned away, industry representatives said.

Pharmacists report drug shortage amid Brexit uncertainty

ITV News, 11 January 2018

Pharmacists in our region say they are running out of some drugs partly due to the disruption caused by Brexit.

A chain of chemists in Cambridge is having problems getting hold of some basic medicines such as anti-inflammatories and antibiotics.

Jody Butler, Pharmacist for Pari-chem, said: “At the moment there is an issue with drug supply, probably more so than at any point in my past career.”

Mr Butler added: “Brexit is one of the issues that might be playing into that but obviously the drug market is a complicated one and they’ll be multiple factors.

“We are running out of several quite basic drugs, which obviously is causing complications for the patients, delays in getting patients treatment and costing time for pharmacies and GPs.”

Mr Butler said there were currently supply issues with the anti-inflammatory drug Naproxen and the antibiotic flucloxacillin.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are working closely with industry to ensure the continued supply of medicines whatever the Brexit outcome.

“Our number one priority is to ensure patients continue to have access to medicines as we exit the EU.

“Patients, pharmacists and the NHS will be able to access medicines in the same way that they do now.”

Meanwhile, European health professionals at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge have told ITV News Anglia they are thinking of leaving the UK because of fears over Brexit.

Mr Christof Kastner, Consultant Urologist, said he was “very concerned” by a no deal scenario.

“I live in an environment here in Cambridge where there are huge opportunities for my children and for my wife,” he said.

“But I would have serious concerns about the future for myself and my wife growing older – pensions, health care, what is it going to be like?

“I have four children – what are their opportunities, will they have the freedom I’ve had to choose and be flexible with my life?

“This is important for me and I would seriously consider what I’m going to do. I would have to make an options assessment against other options in the rest of Europe.”

Media And Political Bulletin – 11 January 2019

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