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UK bans some drug exports to preserve NHS stocks

Insists the move is not related to Brexit

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The UK has published a list of medicines that must not be exported because of shortages in the NHS, but insists the move is not related to Brexit.

The ban applies to the so-called ‘parallel trade’ of medicines – in other words the buying and selling of products between countries in order to profit from price differentials. It applies mainly to hormone replacement therapies but also includes all adrenaline pens, hepatitis B vaccines and the influenza drug oseltamivir, sold by Roche as Tamiflu, amongst other drugs.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has welcomed the news, saying it will “stop some medicine wholesalers from taking advantage of the present circumstances by parallel exporting”.

The list isn’t new and is regularly updated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as medicine shortages occur in the NHS, but the latest version has particular significance in light of the potential disruption to medicine supplies that could follow a no-deal Brexit.

The ABPI has previously called for a temporary restriction on parallel exports in the run up to Brexit as currency fluctuations such as a fall in the value of the pound could make exporting medicines to the EU more profitable.

Dr Rick Greville, ABPI director with responsibility for the distribution and supply chain, said the decision to take precautionary measures to protect medicines supplies is important given ongoing efforts by the industry to stockpile medicines in case of disruption if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.

The restrictions “means that these stockpiles of medicines which companies have built over previous months are better protected and available for use only by the NHS patients for which they were intended,” said Greville.

The trade body said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has also invited ABPI members to identify when parallel export could lead or contribute to supply problems in the UK.

Traders who ignore the ban and export a medicine on the restricted list could have their wholesale dealer license revoked by the MHRA.

The government notes that 19 HRT drugs are covered by the restrictions, which are also in place in other EU countries including France and Spain. It says around 360,000 prescriptions of HRT are dispensed a month to relieve symptoms of the menopause.

Meanwhile, the DHSC says it has also introduced serious shortage protocols for the antidepressant fluoxetine, as manufacturing issues mean the drug is temporarily in short supply.

“I know how distressing medicine shortages can be for those who rely on drugs like HRT and it’s absolutely crucial patients can always access safe and effective treatments through the NHS,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“The new measures we’re introducing today will help us ensure patients get the medicines they need and the high-quality care they deserve.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

3rd October 2019

From: Healthcare

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