Medicine Supply must be top Government priority in no deal Brexit scenario

20 December 2018: Contingency planning for the supply of medicines must be a top government priority as ongoing uncertainty makes a no-deal Brexit a real possibility. This warning was issued by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) who today said that for Irish patients who receive over 75 million prescriptions each year the impact of a no-deal Brexit could be profound.

Explaining the severity of the problem faced by the Irish healthcare system and in particular the medicine supply chain, IPU Secretary General Darragh O’ Loughlin said, “Almost 70% of medicines supplied in Ireland come to us from or through the UK. In addition, six out of ten medicines in Irish pharmacies share packaging or leaflets with the UK market.

The testing of medicines may also be severely impacted without a negotiated Brexit deal according to Mr O’ Loughlin. “Typically, every batch of medicine imported into the EU undergoes ‘batch testing.’ This involves confirming by laboratory analysis that it has the correct composition. Medicines from the UK which did not require batch testing in 2018 will require this process in 2019, risking delays in the delivery of medicines to wholesalers, to pharmacies and, ultimately, to patients. This would generate additional costs for suppliers, which would inevitably be passed onto patients and the State.

“There are over 15,000 medications authorised in Ireland. Given the sheer scale of work that could be required to retain this supply of medicines, information about what contingencies are being put in place is long overdue. Without comprehensive answers from the Government, pharmacists cannot reassure patients that they will not have to change their medications or get new prescriptions from their doctors.”

While acknowledging the authorities’ efforts to date to ensure the supply of medicines in a no Brexit deal, Mr O’ Loughlin said stockpiling is not a feasible solution to any medicines supply difficulties post Brexit. “Even if pharmacies and wholesalers had the physical storage space to do so, this would still only be a short-term measure. We need clear guidance and practical solutions to benefit patients. There is an urgent requirement for a transition period to be agreed with our EU partners so that we can plan for any new testing or packaging requirements.”

“Minimising the impact on patients and ensuring a continuing supply of medications must be an absolute top priority for Government in the coming weeks”, concluded Mr O’ Loughlin.


Further information:

Sinéad Fennell, Press and Communications Manager, Irish Pharmacy Union +353 87 775 1510