No ‘major disruptions’ to medicine supply expected due to border chaos, say pharma firms

France closes borders to UK in bid to stop new strain of coronavirus from spreading

Kate Ng
Monday 21 December 2020 15:50 GMT
Pharmacist at work inside the new pharmacy at the completed NHS Louisa Jordan hospital, built at the SEC Centre in Glasgow
Pharmacist at work inside the new pharmacy at the completed NHS Louisa Jordan hospital, built at the SEC Centre in Glasgow

Medicine supplies in the UK will not be disrupted as a result of the border restrictions placed on the UK by France, manufacturing firms have said.

The suspension of all travel and freight from the UK to France — as European states try to avoid importing the new strain of coronavirus into the continent — from Sunday night threw up serious concerns over supplies of medicine and fresh food.

However, manufacturers sought to reassure Britons that there will be no shortage in the supply of medicines to the NHS as companies have been stockpiling products ahead of Brexit.

Warwick Smith, director general of the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), which represents non-branded mass market medicines, said: “Generic medicines manufacturers have already invested significant time, resource and expense to prepare for the imminent end of the Brexit transition period.

“As a result, companies are already holding larger-than-usual supplies of medicines in the UK and therefore we don’t anticipate major disruption due to current French border restrictions.

“The multi-source dynamic of the UK generics market which are underpinned by competition means that typically if one manufacturer cannot supply a product for any reason other companies are able to step in.”

Richard Torbett, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, told The Independent: “Preparations for Brexit - and our work carried out throughout this pandemic — means that pharmaceutical companies have contingencies in place for border emergencies in line with the Government’s worst-case scenario planning.

“This includes additional buffer stocks of medicines already in the UK and the ability to re-route supplies away from the short strait channel crossings.

“We understand that companies are confident at this current time that medicines and vaccines — including the Covid-19 vaccine — will continue to reach patients.

He added: “We are closely monitoring the situation and working with the UK Government as they deal with issues regarding the UK’s borders."

Industry suppliers were asked by the government to stockpile a six-week supply of medicines in the UK to mitigate disruption that Brexit is expected to cause as the country prepares to leave the EU in ten days’ time.

The government has also implemented a rapid air freight plan for urgent drugs to be flown into the UK.

However, NHS bosses warned earlier this month that between Brexit and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, hospitals in the UK could face supply shortages during the peak of winter even if a deal is struck between Brussels and Westminster.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told The Independent that there was “always” a risk of delays at the border, “whatever the outcome of the Brexit talks”.

He added: “But the government has continually assured us that they have appropriate arrangements in place to manage the supply of medicines and medical supplies and trusts are relying on that assurance.”

France’s transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari indicated on Monday that a solution was coming, tweeting that "in the coming hours, at a European level, we will put a solid health protocol in place so that the flow from the United Kingdom can resume”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in