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Leaving the EU: Access to Drugs

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 23 July 2019

Our highest priority is for patients to continue to have access to medicines and medical products in all Brexit scenarios. As a responsible Government, we will minimise any disruption in our exit, deal or no deal.

On 26 June, we set out our approach to ensuring continuity of supply. I discussed this last week with the head of the NHS, and Professor Keith Willett wrote to all NHS trusts yesterday to advise on no-deal planning.

Concerned breast cancer charities have asked me and others to ask the Secretary of State if he will confirm to us, and to them, whether he is leasing enough ferry capacity to ship in medicines in the very likely event of shortages in the UK when we leave the EU.

Yes, we secured the requirements ahead of a potential exit on 29 March, and we are doing the necessary work to ensure that capacity is available, whatever the Brexit scenario, on 31 October.

My constituent Jonathan Fisher, known as the Bold Joff, has complex health needs due to a rare genetic condition called Lowe syndrome. He requires six regular medications, three of which come from the EU. They are all vital to his health, but one in particular, Epilim, is critical to his epilepsy care. What reassurances can the Secretary of State give to Jonathan and his mother, Fiona, that when we leave the EU there will be no disruption to his supply of this vital medication?

The assurance I can give is that, ahead of 29 March, we put in place the measures that are necessary to ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s constituent and others get the medicines they need, and we have taken forward those proposals and that work ahead of an exit from the European Union on 31 October.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the expert evidence, including from the BioIndustry Association, warning that, although we may be able to stockpile the bog-standard drugs, it will be very difficult to do so for specialist treatments. What guarantees can he give that we will have access to those specialist medicines?

Ahead of 29 March, we managed to put in place a full programme to ensure access to drugs. Of course, the approach is not just about ensuring stockpiles—there are adequate stockpiles for so many medicines all the time—but is about ensuring the flow of materials and finished drugs across the channel via ferries and, where necessary, aircraft.