Coronavirus: Exports of 80 vital drugs banned by ministers to prevent NHS shortages

Restrictions announced as government seeks to protect supplies of key drugs such as paracetamol, insulin and morphine

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 20 March 2020 15:25 GMT
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Exports of more than 80 vital drugs have been banned by ministers to prevent NHS shortages of medicines needed to treat coronavirus.

The government has imposed strict restrictions on sales of critical medicines such as insulin, morphine and paracetamol to protect supplies for use in British intensive care units.

Companies that breach the ban on parallel exports – where drugs already on the UK market are sold abroad for profit – could lose their trading licences.

All the medicines on the list, which include adrenaline and common antibiotics, are in high demand across Europe as health systems come under increasing pressure from the virus.

Announcing the move, health minister Lord Bethell said: “Our brilliant NHS staff are going above and beyond to provide world-class care to patients with coronavirus and we are supporting them in every way we can.

“We are today banning the parallel export of more than 80 crucial medicines to protect patients in the UK and help ensure they can always get the treatments they need.”

The list of restricted medicines will remain under review, with ministers prepared to add other drugs to the list if necessary, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The move comes as Matt Hancock, the health secretary, issued an appeal to retired doctors and nurses to return to the frontline, saying that the NHS “needs you like never before”.

Several MPs have said they returning to work in the NHS, with Conservative MP Maria Caulfield saying she will take shifts as a nurse and Dr Kieran Mullan, another Tory MP, vowing to work locally during the crisis.

Labour deputy leadership contender Rosena Allin-Khan told The Independent she was “proud to pull on my scrubs” at her local emergency department at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it was drawing up rapid guidelines to help doctors and nurses know the best course of treatment for patients.

Nice said it would make its guidance available online so other countries can see the approach the UK is taking to tackle the virus and care for patients in the NHS.

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