The Government has now agreed the Withdrawal Agreement with the European Commission, which includes an implementation period that will run from March 2019 until December 2020. During this time, the supply of medicines will remain unchanged. As a responsible Government, however, we continue to prepare proportionately for all scenarios, including ‘no deal’.
On 23 August 2018, the Department wrote to all pharmaceutical companies that supply prescription only medicines and pharmacy medicines to the United Kingdom that come from, or via, the European Union or European Economic Area (EEA) asking them to ensure a minimum of six weeks’ additional supply in the UK, over and above existing business-as-usual buffer stocks, by 29 March 2019.
We have received very good engagement from industry who share our aims of ensuring continuity of medicines supply for patients is maintained and able to cope with any potential delays at the border that may arise in the short term in the event of a ‘no deal’ EU exit. In the light of this engagement, the Department is currently considering how best it may support those companies taking part in the contingency planning.
Additionally, a tender process to procure additional warehouse space for stockpiled medicines, including ambient, refrigerated and controlled drug storage, was undertaken in October 2018. Contract agreements for storage have recently been signed or are imminent. This is expected to cost the Government in the low tens of millions of pounds.
Whilst the six-week stockpiling activity remains a critical part of our contingency plans, this has been supplemented with additional actions. The Government recognises the importance of medicines and is working to ensure that there is sufficient roll-on, roll-off freight capacity to enable these vital products to continue to move freely in to the UK from 29 March in a ‘no deal’ scenario. The Department is working closely with the Department for Transport to ensure all medicines and medical products are prioritised on these alternative routes to ensure that the flow of all these products will continue unimpeded after 29 March 2019.
On 7 December 2018, the Department wrote to pharmaceutical companies that supply licensed medicines to the UK from or via the EU/EEA, and/or manufacture medicines in the UK, informing them of the updated reasonable worst-case scenario border planning assumptions and asking them about their current transportation routes and their ability to re-route their supply chains if they currently rely on Dover and/or Folkestone. Since then we have been working closely with those companies to better understand their supply chains and the potential for rerouting in a ‘no deal’ scenario.