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Patients must get the medicine they need after Brexit

Patients could find that supplies of their medicines will be disrupted when the UK leaves the EU, according to a new briefing published by the Brexit Health Alliance…

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Patients could find that supplies of their medicines will be disrupted when the UK leaves the EU, according to a new briefing published by the Brexit Health Alliance – a group made up of NHS, medical research, industry bodies – including the ABPI, patients and public health organisations.

The briefing looks at how UK and EU citizens could be affected by the disruption in trade that could result from the Brexit, or what might happen without cooperation in the regulation of medicines and devices.

Let’s put patients first – both the UK Government and European Commission must make this cooperation a priority in the interests of UK and EU patients

In just one example of what a “no deal” scenario might actually look like, the BHA predicts that 120,000 prostate cancer patients throughout Europe could be affected if Brexit negotiations fail to find a solution.

A prostate cancer medicine, made in a highly sophisticated process in the UK and used in 80 countries including all of Europe, is one of many medicines that risks supply disruption in the event that the UK and EU fail to agree on the cooperation of medicines regulation.   

With 82 million patient packs travelling between the UK and EU each month, it’s just one example of the impact to patients that might result from getting negotiations wrong.

Getting early access to the newest, most-effective medicines

Experts from across health organisations have weighed in on what implications a lack of agreement could have on their sectors. Niall Dickson, co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance and chief executive of the NHS Confederation says: “It is critical that UK and EU patients do not lose out on the best treatments and medical devices as the UK leaves the EU.

“We want to make sure that patients continue to benefit from early access to new health technologies and cutting-edge medicines, and that includes being able to take part in international clinical trials.

“This can be achieved if will is there – what patients need is maximum co-operation and alignment between the EU and the UK on the regulation of medicines and medical devices and we very much welcome the UK Government’s commitment to close collaboration with our European partners.

“Let’s put patients first – both the UK Government and European Commission must make this cooperation a priority in the interests of UK and EU patients.”

Aisling Burnand, chief executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities – representing 140 member charities who spend over £1.6bn a year on research in the UK –made clear that patients must be at the heart of any negotiations, saying: “It is vital that the health of patients is prioritised in the second phase of negotiations. If not, patients in the UK and the EU could face delays in accessing potentially life-saving treatments.

“Officials on both sides of the negotiating table must have patients’ best interests at heart and ensure safety considerations are paramount.”

And, representing the pharmaceutical industry in the UK, ABPI’s own chief executive Mike Thompson reiterated the importance of getting this right for patients both here in the UK and in the EU.

He said: “This report from the Brexit Health Alliance highlights once again the importance of a finding a swift resolution to the public health issues facing patients both in the EU and in the UK. This is a welcome and timely intervention from health organisations, charities and patients groups who all share concerns about the impact of changes to existing customs arrangements on the supply of medicines and vaccines.

With the UK importing 37m medicine packs of medicine from the EU every month, and the UK exporting 45m packs to the EU, we will require a system which is as fully integrated as possible otherwise we face the very real risk of patients being unable to get the medicines they need.   

“In the interest of 500 million patients in Europe, resolving customs issues and securing continued UK / EU regulatory alignment on medicines must be a priority in the next phase of the negotiations.”

To read the newest briefing “Brexit and the impact on patient access to medicines and medical technologies” click here.

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