Brexit Impact On Drugs - Rising Shortages in UK Highlight Brexit Challenges

Zinger Key Points
  • The report underscores how Brexit has intensified vulnerabilities in global and UK-specific drug supply chains. 
  • The research highlights a substantial increase in warnings issued by drug companies regarding impending shortages. 

Drug shortages in the UK have more than doubled between 2020 and 2023, a recent study by the Nuffield Trust reveals. Brexit is cited as a significant factor exacerbating the country’s struggle to manage shortages in medicine supplies. 

Since the UK departed from the European Union in January 2020, the nation has grappled with persistently heightened shortages, particularly concerning crucial treatments like antibiotics and epilepsy drugs.

The research highlights a substantial increase in warnings issued by drug companies regarding impending shortages. 

In 2023 alone, there were 1,643 warnings compared to 648 in 2020. Consequently, the government has found itself more frequently reimbursing pharmacies for purchasing drugs above standard costs, with price concessions soaring from 20 instances per month before 2016 to a peak of 199 per month in late 2022.

Citing Mark Dayan, the Brexit program lead at the Nuffield Trust, the Financial Times highlighted that the challenges extend beyond Brexit, with global issues such as disrupted import chains from Asia due to Covid-19 exacerbating the situation. 

Exiting the EU has compounded these issues, causing disruptions in the smooth flow of products across borders and potentially limiting the availability of alternative medicines in the long run.

The report underscores how Brexit has intensified vulnerabilities in global and UK-specific drug supply chains. 

Customs checks at borders and increased regulations for manufacturers, including those related to the UK’s departure from the European Medicines Agency, have further complicated matters. 

Some companies have even opted to exclude the UK from their supply chains.

In addition to Brexit-related challenges, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has struggled to approve drugs at the same pace as the EU, hindering the entry of generic medicines into the UK market. 

Surges in demand for certain drugs, coupled with UK pricing policies, have further strained supplies in the country.

Despite efforts to address these issues, such as establishing a Critical Imports Council, concerns still need to be addressed about the UK’s ability to mitigate future shortages without access to EU solidarity mechanisms. 

Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Image credit: Dall-E 3

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