Patients face shortage of vital medicine under a hard Brexit, drug boss warns

A senior executive in the Irish arm of generic drug maker Teva Pharmaceuticals has warned of medicine shortages in Ireland under a hard Brexit.

Sandra Gannon, Teva Ireland general manager, warned post-Brexit risks included the potential for lengthy Border delays, significant customs costs and divergent regulatory stances leading to increased medicine costs and growing drug shortages.

“The issue of medicine shortages is another concern.

“Already, 140 medicines are out of stock and we are at risk of further shortages due to Ireland’s dependence on the much larger British market,” said Ms Gannon.

“Without the ability to batch-share, the small size of the Irish market may make it commercially unsustainable for manufacturers to supply to Ireland.

“That would seriously damage Ireland’s interests – both in terms of patient access to medicines and the inevitable rise in cost which would occur.”

Although Ireland has a thriving pharmaceutical industry, Ms Gannon said products manufactured here are for the high end of the market, and are exported elsewhere.

“If you look at the products that are made here, it is products that are patent protected, and high end in price,” Ms Gannon told the Irish Independent.

“They are exported to mainly the US. It could well be the case that products that are made here never actually make the Irish market and they could well be made in some other facility elsewhere. So it’s not what we make here is used here.

“This [impact from a hard Brexit] really affects older medicines, and medicines that have a low value, or low volume. The numbers in Ireland just don’t stack up to make products specifically for the Irish market in the scenario where it’s very low volume or very low value.”

Ms Gannon, who is also joint chairperson of the Medicines for Ireland lobby group, will today highlight concerns at an event organised by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

Ms Gannon will warn that custom controls between Ireland and Britain and Northern Ireland also add to the administrative burden of importing into Ireland, saying this would increase the cost of medicines to the health service and patients.

She believed with a small market size and new regulatory and customs burdens, Ireland may no longer be seen as an attractive export market for UK medicine manufacturers.

“Where products have a short shelf-life and requirement for temperature controls, customs delays crossing the UK Border would make it difficult to guarantee supply, especially in the event of an urgent increase in need.

“Every hour of customs delay adds to the cost of trade and it’s hard to see how such delays could be avoided if a hard Border is reinstated,” Ms Gannon said.

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