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Government must protect UK's pharmaceutical industry post-Brexit say Committee

17 May 2018

The Government must secure a post-Brexit deal for the pharmaceutical industry that ensures the closest possible regulatory alignment with the EU and the minimum border friction possible or risk harming patients and seeing the pharma sector losing its status as a world leader, say the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

Post-Brexit  agreement for pharmaceutical industry needed

The Committee’s report, ‘The impact of Brexit on the pharmaceutical sector’ finds that leaving the EU without an agreement for the industry would diminish access to markets, including £11.9billion of exports and to more than 446million potential patients and consumers in the EU. British patients’ access to medicines would also be at risk, with nearly three-quarters of pharmaceutical imports coming from the EU.

Drug costs could be significantly impacted

The report concludes that the prospect of regulatory divergence from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is the deepest concern for the industry, which would mean pharmaceutical companies needing to duplicate their facilities and roles across the UK and EU. Drug costs could be significantly impacted. A separate regime could impose extra costs of £45,000 for each new product released, making the UK an unattractive market for new and innovative medicines. While the Government has indicated its desire for continued cooperation, the Committee calls for a continued form of membership of the EMA as a priority, and recommends that the Government seek to retain a presence for the EMA in the UK after its relocation to Amsterdam.

Ensure continued access to markets and medicines

Non-tariff barriers present a significant challenge to the pharma industry with delays at the border putting time and temperature sensitive treatments at risk. On tariff barriers, while WTO rules ensure the impact of a ‘no deal’ on the industry would not be as significant as for some other sectors, the Committee concludes there could be harmful tariffs for many products. Barriers to trade and duplicated regulations all could lead to higher prices for medicines, with the NHS and consumers expected to pick up the bill or risk reduced access to medicines. The Committee therefore calls on the Government to pursue an agreement with the EU and other partners that ensures continued access to markets and medicines for the success of the pharmaceutical industry and the benefit of patients.

Chair's comments

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said:

"The Government’s own analysis identifies pharmaceuticals as the sector for which UK/EU market access is the most important given the industry is reliant on friction-free border movement for their products.  Any delays at the border faced by short-life pharmaceuticals for emergency treatments would have a hugely detrimental impact on patients.

The Prime Minister has previously set out a positive and compelling case for continued cooperation on medicines, but, with the clock ticking, it is now time for the Government to end the uncertainty and translate words into actions. Some form of membership of the EMA is vital to the continued success of the pharma industry and to the welfare of British patients and the Government should strike a deal to keep some of the organisation’s jobs and facilities in the UK, to continue to share our world-leading expertise.

The Government must do all it can to reach an agreement that not only protects the UK’s status as a world leader for pharmaceuticals but also allows patients across the continent to continue to be provided with the medicines they need."

Further information

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