UK moves to restrict parallel export of some medicines to protect drug stockpiles in case of no-deal Brexit

The UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on Thursday published a list of 24 medicines that will be subject to export restrictions to prevent wholesalers from 'parallel exporting' ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit. Nineteen of the drugs that will be subject to the new restrictions are hormone replacement therapies (HRTs), while the remaining five medicines include all adrenaline auto-injectors and hepatitis B vaccines.

According to the DHSC, some of the HRT drugs currently face supply shortages due to manufacturing issues, adding that similar measures are already in place in other European countries, including France and Spain. The DHSC indicated that it has written to holders of wholesale dealer licences to tell them that the government will exercise its powers to stop parallel exporting of medicines that are needed for UK patients, adding that any company found to breach these rules may face action from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The DHSC also noted that the government has introduced serious shortage protocols for the antidepressant fluoxetine, as manufacturing issues mean the drug is temporarily in short supply. The action means that pharmacists can supply an alternative strength or pharmaceutical form of fluoxetine when patients have a prescription for one that is currently in shortage.

Commenting on the news, Rick Greville, director of supply chain at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said "companies have done everything asked of them to ensure that medicines get to patients in the event of a no deal Brexit." Greville noted "the decision to take precautionary measures to protect medicines supplies will be very much welcomed by our members," adding "it means that these stockpiles of medicines…are better protected and available for use only by the NHS patients for which they were intended."

Last week, the UK's National Audit Office released a report warning that there remains a risk of delays to medical supplies, including medicines, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31. The report noted that of the 12,300 medicines used in the UK, around 7000 come from or via the EU, adding "it is not possible for anyone to know exactly what will happen at the border if the UK leaves without a deal."

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