Medicine shortages ‘unlikely’ but possible after no-deal Brexit

Health authority warns ‘no absolute guarantees’ on critical medicines such as insulin

Minister for Health Simon Harris and  HPRA chief executive Lorraine Nolan. File photograph: Naoise Culhane

Minister for Health Simon Harris and HPRA chief executive Lorraine Nolan. File photograph: Naoise Culhane

 

There are “no absolute guarantees” that there won’t be significant and prolonged delays to the supply of medicines to Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) will warn on Wednesday.

The chief executive of the HPRA, Lorraine Nolan, is due to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Health on Wednesday morning and will state that Ireland is “unlikely” to face general medicine shortages in the period directly after October 31st.

The HPRA, Department of Health and the HSE have been examining the supply of critical medicines. Such critical medicines could include radiopharmaceuticals and insulin for diabetics, Ms Nolan is expected to outline in her opening statement.

“I can point to radiopharmaceuticals, which have a short shelf life and very specialised transport and storage requirements. Some do not transit the UK, however; the majority are flown from continental Europe to Ireland via East Midlands Airport by the one logistics company.”

The HPRA has sought written assurances from the logistics operator that the supply of these medicines will not be impeded.

Ms Nolan said that these products must stop first at East Midlands Airport, which “introduces an element outside the control of all the parties”.

‘Multiple independent players’

“While there is no indication that this will cause a problem, it is indicative generally that with multiple independent players in the supply chain, one cannot fully rule out all risks, but the HPRA and the HSE plan to actively monitor this situation and manage as necessary.”

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Some products will still either come from the UK by air or sea or by necessity be transported across the UK

Ms Nolan is also expected to highlight the supply of insulins, which are critical medicines for diabetic patients and which need to be refrigerated during transportation and storage.

“We have engaged with the three suppliers of insulins to Ireland, who have all provided assurances that they will have a minimum of 8-10 weeks’ stock of all insulins in Irish wholesalers on the 31st of October.”

Post-Brexit, some products will still either come from the UK by air or sea or by necessity be transported across the UK.

“The assurances received from companies are based on the continued operation of these transport routes combined with the maintenance of sufficient stocks levels, depending on shelf life, in Ireland.

“However, significant and prolonged delays anywhere along these routes could potentially interrupt supply to the Irish market. While our preparations are focused on ensuring that such impacts are prevented or minimised, there are no absolute guarantees.”

Duty-free

Meanwhile, the managing director of Cork Airport, Niall MacCarthy, who is also a member of the DAA executive team, will tell a Seanad Brexit committee that duty-free shopping will return on alcohol and tobacco products if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The DAA has the new signage printed out and has it in storage ready to use if needed

In his opening statement, he is also expected to outline changes at Irish airports.

At airport immigration, UK passport holders arriving at Irish airports will go through a new redesigned “EU/EEA/CH and UK” channel.

The DAA has the new signage printed out and has it in storage ready to use if needed. At customs points in the arrivals hall, all passengers arriving at Irish airports from UK destinations will be required to use the green channel in a no-deal scenario rather than the blue channel as they currently do.

The National Transport Authority will also tell the committee it would be supportive of the EU granting Ireland permission to put in place alternative arrangements with the UK that would permit cross-Border coach and bus services by Northern Irish operators in the Border region.

The authority’s chief executive, Anne Graham, will say that it strongly favours the EU’s no-deal contingency regulations being extended to allow regular bus services to continue until July 30th, 2020, and cabotage – the transport of passengers between two places in the same country by an operator from another country – for six months.