The scarcity of drugs in Britain is a result of the inadequacy of regulators, according to letter writers.
An announcement has been made that European nations are collaborating to protect drug availability by maintaining a reserve of 200 essential products. This news arrives as the UK is confronted with the alarming possibility of more frequent scarcities. (EU strategy for storing medicines may exacerbate existing shortages in the UK, January 25th).
Generic medicines – exact copies of original patented products – fulfil 80% of all prescriptions used by NHS patients. They also save the taxpayer £15bn annually via a competitive market, which has meant we have enjoyed the lowest medicine prices in Europe. However, a range of threats are undermining the resilience of the UK’s generic medicine supply chain, meaning shortages are becoming much more common.
The primary obstacle that needs to be addressed is the declining performance of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). In the past, routine licensing changes could be processed within a year. However, due to budget constraints, it now takes up to two-and-a-half years, causing frustration for companies attempting to supply medication during shortages. In addition to challenges posed by Brexit and government pricing policies, the lack of recognition for the significance of generic medications has led international companies to view the UK as a challenging place to do business. As a result, access to medicines, both routine and life-saving, may become increasingly limited.
The head of the British Generic Manufacturers Association.
I know this might seem a stupid question but why are we not manufacturing our own drugs? Surely it would make economic sense for the NHS to have its own pharmaceuticals factory making all the generic drugs available for its own use.