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Knowledge Hub

Brexit drug shortages already affecting care

Can we protect the drug supply chain in the run-up to Brexit?

Doctors have warned that the NHS supply chain is already destabilised by Brexit.

Helgi Johannsson, clinical director at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, called on colleagues using Twitter to tell him about drug shortages in their organisations.

Of the 600 replies, 87% reported shortages and 26% said it affected patient care.

Dr Johannsson had seen supply problems with the painkiller diamorphine and the antibiotic metronidazole. He said: ‘It’s not that these are expensive drugs… It’s an issue of supply.’

In August the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) wrote to prescribers telling them not to stockpile or write longer prescriptions during the run-up to Brexit. It also wrote to drug companies asking them to make sure they had six weeks’ supply of medicines from the EU available for NHS patients. And it sought reassurance that products with short shelf lives could be brought in by air to avoid border delays on sea, road and rail routes.

Further information

BMJ: Harmful drug shortages will worsen after Brexit, doctors warn

Wellards: DHSC and DExEU publish plans for no-deal Brexit

DHSC: Government’s preparations for a March 2019 ‘no deal’ scenario (letter to prescribers)

DHSC: EU Exit – Human medicines supply in a March 2019 ‘no deal’ scenario (letter to drug companies)