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AstraZeneca joins Merck in Brexit stockpiling effort

Says it is increasing stores of medicines by around 20%

AZ

AstraZeneca has become the latest major pharma producer to say it is stockpiling medicines in case the UK crashes out of the EU in a ‘no-deal’ scenario.

The UK drugmaker says it is increasing stores of medicines by around 20% so that it can cope with Brexit disruption, and its comments come shortly after Merck & Co/MSD said it was also laying in additional supplies and may re-route its supply chains if trade barriers disrupt business.

AZ’s stockpiling will boost supplies of drugs that are made in the UK and shipped to the EU, and vice versa. The company told Reuters that it generally has several months of reserves but will increase this in case the terms of Brexit mean delays of goods in transit because of document checks and potentially other issues such as the need for duplicate product testing.

In an interview with the BBC, the company’s global external manufacturing, Juliette White, said it is preparing to set up duplicate labs in the UK and EU, and currently  has more than 30 people working on preparations for Brexit.

MSD’s plan reportedly involves setting up a six-month back-up supply and asking customers to take extra stock in advance. According to the Europe's pharma association EFPIA, 45m patient packs go to the EU from the UK every month, and 37m packs go from the EU to the UK, while products are developed “in complex supply chains from across Europe.”

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) earlier this month warned that many pharma manufacturers were not ready for Brexit and there was a risk of supply shortages for some medicines if action isn’t taken soon.

AZ’s plan comes amid the ongoing turbulence as the UK careens towards Brexit. Earlier this week the government managed to defeat moves to keep the country tied to the EU customs union – which is anathema to Brexiteers who maintain it will scupper plans for trade deals with other countries – as it tries to keep the latest ‘Chequers’ proposal alive.

MPs also voted that the government must make the UK remaining a member of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) a key negotiating objective with the EU27 – although just how that will be achieved remains unclear and subject to negotiations.

In the meantime, there are already reports that the EU is preparing to issue a warning to EU member states to step up preparations for the UK exiting from the bloc on March 27 next year without an agreement, just as new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab sets off to bring the new proposal to the negotiating table in Brussels.

Raab was appointed after David Davis resigned in protest at Theresa May's plans for post-Brexit trade, and in particular adherence to a ‘common rulebook’ for goods.

Initial reports suggest the EU sees the new plan as no more than a starting point and there are fears that further softening of the terms of the latest proposal – given the already strong criticism of the document by prominent Brexiteers – could spark a leadership challenge in the Conservative party and further chaos.

Article by
Phil Taylor

19th July 2018

From: Regulatory

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