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Supply of Medicines: No Deal

Volume 664: debated on Thursday 5 September 2019

1. What recent assessment the Government have made of the effect on the supply of medicines of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. (912274)

16. What recent assessment the Government have made of the effect on the supply of medicines of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. (912289)

17. What recent assessment the Government have made of the effect on the supply of medicines of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. (912290)

The Department of Health and Social Care has assessed and contacted 448 suppliers of medicine and has regular and detailed conversations with the industry.

This week, the Nuffield Trust joined 11 union leaders to warn that no deal would disrupt the supply of life-saving medicine and exacerbate the largest staffing crisis in our NHS’s history. What level of mortality rate is acceptable to the Secretary of State as the price to pay for this devastating no-deal Brexit?

The hon. Gentleman does not reflect the reality of the significant preparation that the industry has done over the last three years, and I pay tribute to it for that. For example, one of the leading insulin manufacturers, Novo Nordisk, has 18 weeks’ worth of supplies, while the Government had asked for six weeks’ worth. The industry has gone above and beyond in its preparation, and a huge amount of work has been done.

I was recently contacted by a constituent with a rare condition. She has stopped producing cortisol and needs to take a synthetic form of it to survive. If she stops taking her medication, she will be dead within 10 days. What does the Secretary of State have to say to my constituent, who is afraid that the Government are gambling with her life?

I would say that we should not be scaring people unnecessarily. The Government have put in place a framework to ensure supply. We have also put in place an express freight service, which will give even more capacity on a 24-hour basis and between two to four days for larger pallets. There is additional capacity, and a huge amount of work has been done on storage, but this is an issue of mutual interest for the UK and the Commission, and we are working on it jointly.

Anyone who is facing cancer treatment wants to know that they can get the medicine and the medical devices they need as quickly as possible and with certainty. Dr Buscombe from the British Nuclear Medicine Society says that the system for delivering radioactive isotopes in the event of a no-deal Brexit is “fragile”. What does the Secretary of State say to patients who are concerned to hear that?

I was a Health Minister, and as part of business as usual there are always issues of supply, usually with around up to 50 lines. We have had it in the last few weeks with HRT, which is totally unconnected to Brexit. These are issues that the Department is well used to preparing for. It is in the interest of both sides to get this right. Two thirds of Ireland’s medicine comes through the land bridge in Great Britain. This is something that both sides are working to deliver because it is of interest to both of us.

I welcome the Government’s preparations to prevent medicine shortages in the event of no deal and the fact that the Secretary of State highlighted the impact this will have on the Republic of Ireland. As he rightly says, two thirds of medicines to the Republic come through and over UK motorways, so it is in the EU’s interests as well to prevent no deal.

My hon. Friend is right. This is about preparing. It is not about scaring people unnecessarily. Around 220 lorries impact Ireland. This is of mutual interest, and we want to get it right with them. That is why we are working with member states on this. It is not just about stock and not just about flow; it is also about flow the other way. A significant number of UK medicines from firms like AstraZeneca go to Europe, so this is in the interests of the EU27 and the UK, which is why considerable work has been done on it.