HSE warns Government over drug supply in no-deal Brexit scenario

Government told it will need to make plans for foodstuffs for those who have specialised diets and rely on products from the UK

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association  says up to 70%  of medicines on the Irish market come from or transit through the UK. Photograph: Getty Images

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association says up to 70% of medicines on the Irish market come from or transit through the UK. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The HSE has told the Government of concerns in the health sector about the continuing supply of 45 drugs for patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) keeps a record of which drugs are in limited supply every month, with this list viewed as being potentially critical if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

It is understood that there are currently 45 such drugs, and officials fear this number could rise with issues around shortages potentially becoming more pronounced. Officials are concerned particularly with drugs with a short shelf life.

The HSE, the HPRA and the Department of Health have held a number of meetings on the issue, and are currently mapping out a plan for each of those drugs as part of no-deal planning which the Government is involved in.

The HSE is also looking into potential issues around the supply of human breast milk, which is brought across the Border from Fermanagh. Such stocks are needed for premature babies. It is understood that the HSE believes that such a bank could be set up in Ireland if issues arose.

The Government has also been told it will need to make no-deal plans for foodstuffs for those who have specialised diets and rely on products from the UK, and for medical devices from rubber gloves to hip replacement equipment.

Memos detailing contingency plans for the health and transport sectors will be brought to Cabinet on Tuesday.

Aviation agreements

A spokeswoman for Minister for Transport Shane Ross said progress had been made in recent weeks in relation to aviation agreements which would be needed to ensure flights were not grounded.

“In recent weeks a substantial amount of progress has been achieved with the European Commission in relation to continued aviation connectivity and continued international road haulage access between the EU and UK, thus reducing potential difficulties in the short term.

“Work is also continuing on a cross-departmental basis to ensure that checks by customs and by the Departments of Agriculture and Health can be carried out at our ports and airports in the aftermath of Brexit.”

A spokeswoman for Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that “important memos are being brought to Cabinet on Tuesday, which are all part of our ongoing preparations for Brexit. The debate will continue in the UK this week, and we’ll respond once we know the result of the vote.”

The pharmaceutical industry told the Department of Health last Friday in advance of the memo being brought to Cabinet that Ireland had a critical reliance on the UK as a source of medicines.

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) – which represents the international research-based pharmaceutical sector which manufactures branded prescription medicines – said up to 70 percent of medicines on the Irish market came from or transited through the UK. “Up to 60 per cent of marketed medicinal products share labels and leaflets with the UK market,” it said.

Continuity of supply

The IPHA said in its letter to the Department of Health that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, complex arrangements had been made by companies, working closely with the Health Products Regulatory Authority, to secure continuity of supply. It said these included re-routing transport away from the UK and activating the dispatch of bridging stocks of certain medicines identified at the individual company level.

“While the industry as a whole is not planning to hold significant stocks of medicines, companies have begun to examine their own product portfolios so that if bridging stocks are required in certain cases they can easily be made available.”

It is understood that the memo which will be brought to Cabinet will also recommend against stockpiling, stating that after March 30th there is an eight to 10 week stock of most drugs.