The European Union’s proposed stockpile of medicine may exacerbate the United Kingdom’s current shortage issues.
EU to store important medications to add to UK’s already severe drug shortage issue, causing concern that the country may fall behind in obtaining necessary medicines.
The EU is aiming to protect its resources by implementing a new system where its 27 nations collaborate to ensure a steady supply of 200 frequently used medicines, including antibiotics, painkillers, and vaccines.
The bloc’s decision to protect itself from a rise in drug shortages could worsen the already limited availability of medication for the NHS, creating significant challenges for doctors.
Dr. Andrew Hill, a specialist in the pharmaceutical industry, stated that Europe is ensuring access to important medications and vaccines as a unified region with significant influence and purchasing power. However, due to Brexit, the UK is now separated from this system, potentially putting our drug supplies in jeopardy in the future.
The United Kingdom is currently facing a significant shortage of drugs, with over 100 medications, including those used for cancer, type 2 diabetes, and motor neurone disease, being difficult or impossible to acquire.
According to Mark Dayan, the head of the Brexit program at the Nuffield Trust health think tank, the EU’s choice to function as a purchasing group could potentially put Britain at a significant disadvantage.
Dayan expressed concern that the UK may fall behind in addressing shortages due to Brexit, as its large neighbor, now a separate market, may take priority.
The European Union is considering purchasing more medication together, beginning with a focus on antibiotics in the upcoming winter season.
The initiative also includes transferring medicine stocks among member states to address shortages in other countries. This action may restrict UK buyers in certain situations.
“This would risk worsening shortages from a starting point where they are already exceptionally severe for the UK and other countries, with a mounting impact in terms of costs and wasted time for the NHS, and in terms of patients struggling to get what their doctors have said they need.”
The European Medicines Agency, previously located in London while Britain was a member before Brexit, has announced that medications on their “critical medicines” list will receive priority for EU-wide measures to improve their supply chains and reduce the potential for shortages. The determination of a drug being “critical” is based on the severity of the illness it treats and the availability of alternative treatments in case of a shortage. The EU intends to broaden the list to include a greater variety of medications.
According to Hill, there are various factors that contribute to Britain being less appealing to the pharmaceutical industry compared to the EU.
The United Kingdom has stricter rules and higher taxes compared to the European region, and it is also a smaller country. These factors discourage drug companies from selling their products in the UK, which has a population of 66 million, when they have a larger market of 450 million nearby that is more interested in purchasing their products.
Hill suggested that the UK should enhance collaboration with the EU in terms of medication supply, similar to its current partnerships in defense, law enforcement, and higher education, in order to safeguard its access to drugs.
The European Union is also contemplating providing incentives to pharmaceutical companies to construct new production facilities as a part of their efforts to address global shortages resulting from events like the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Several European nations, such as France, are looking to increase their own drug manufacturing capabilities in order to lessen their dependence on India and China.
The CEO of the British Generic Manufacturers Association, Mark Samuels, stated that the government’s recent choice to raise the amount it takes back from generic drug manufacturers when their sales surpass an agreed amount could potentially make certain products unprofitable and impractical to bring into the UK.
According to Samuels, if the government does not have a plan to improve the production of generic medicines in Britain, which make up 80% of the drugs used by the NHS, the supply issues will continue to worsen as the EU takes action to secure their own supplies.
However, the EU’s actions may not necessarily aggravate drug shortages in Britain, according to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, which speaks on behalf of pharmaceutical companies in the UK.
The director of patient access, David Watson, acknowledges that shortages of resources can occur for various reasons. He believes that it is important for us to collaborate internationally in order to prevent and handle these shortages for the benefit of patients. There is no indication that the recent policies of the EU will have a negative effect on addressing this ongoing issue.
The United Kingdom has established procedures to protect important medicine supplies, collaborating with companies.
Daisy Cooper, the health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, stated that swift measures must be taken to tackle the current shortages of drugs, which are causing major difficulties for individuals who depend on them. Despite the severe consequences on people’s well-being, the Conservative government appears to be neglecting this issue.
The government needs to address concerns about their stubborn attitude towards our European allies and how it may lead to more suffering for regular citizens.
The Department of Health and Social Care was requested to provide a statement.