French pharma company Sanofi stockpiling drugs to prepare for no-deal Brexit

Company building up supplies by extra four weeks in bid to cope with anticipated delays

Ben Chapman
Wednesday 01 August 2018 15:41
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Matt Hancock talks about stockpiling of blood products in the event of a no deal Brexit

Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi – one of Europe’s largest suppliers of insulin – has been stockpiling drugs in the UK as fears mount over a no-deal Brexit.

The French company is preparing for Britain crashing out of the EU without a trade deal by building up its stocks of a range of medicines to 14 weeks’ supply from the current level of 10 weeks, because of uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations, Sanofi said.

Hugo Fry, managing director of Sanofi UK said the company had “made arrangements for additional warehouse capacity in order to stockpile our products” and ensure patient safety.

Vital medical supplies risk are at risk unless transitional arrangements for the industry can be agreed, with the once distant prospect of no deal edging closer to reality as trade talks remain locked in stalemate.

Mr Fry said: “From the first day of Brexit, our obligation is to ensure that we can continue to supply our medicines to all patients who need them both in the UK and across the EU.

“In the absence of any transition agreement, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will deem the UK to be a ‘third country’.

“This means we need to adhere to the regulatory requirement for medicines used in the EU to be qualified person release and quality control tested in an EU country.

“To transfer these activities from the UK to the EU takes more than 12 months and it is inevitable that we had to pre-emptively make this decision to ensure there is no disruption for our patients.”

Brexit will also result in 12 UK job losses at Sanofi, as the firm shifts staff including quality control testers to the EU.

It comes after a senior UK health regulator warned last week that no deal could disrupt UK insulin supplies.

Sir Mike Rawlins, chair of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) said: “We make no insulin in the UK.

“We import every drop of it. You can’t transport insulin around ordinarily because it must be temperature-controlled.

“And there are 3.5 million people [with diabetes, some of whom] rely on insulin, not least the prime minister.”

That came after the health minister, Matt Hancock, told a House of Commons committee that the Department of Health and Social Care was looking at options for stockpiling.

Theresa May: We want to negotiate remaining a member of the European Medicines Agency

Mr Hancock said: “We are working right across government to ensure that the health sector and the industry are prepared and that people’s health will be safeguarded in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“This includes the chain of medical supplies, vaccines, medical devices, clinical consumables, blood products.

“And I have asked the department to work up options for stockpiling by industry.

“We are working with industry for the potential need for stockpiling in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”

Mr Hancock said that this planning carried a “cost implication”.

“We are also focusing on the importance of a continuous supply of medicines that have a short shelf life – so some of the medicines most difficult to provide in a no-deal scenario where there is difficult access through ports will need to be flown in.”

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