Saturday 23 February 2019

Ireland will not experience any Brexit-related shortage of vital medications - Tánaiste

Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin
Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin

Ralph Riegel

Ireland will not experience any Brexit-related shortage of vital medications as the Government warned against the panic buying and stockpiling of drugs.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney insisted that the Government have carefully planned for Brexit and any implications for UK-manufactured or UK-sourced medicines on which the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Irish pharmacists are critically reliant.

It is estimated that up to 70pc of medications provided in Ireland are either made in the UK or sourced via the UK.

A number of pharmacists have already warned there has been evidence of stockpiling of drugs in Ireland because of Brexit.

"The Department of Health does not have a list of any drugs that they believe will be in short supply because of Brexit, because of the planning that has been taking place now for many many months," Mr Coveney insisted.

"What I will say is - we are very, very clear on our messaging here - stockpiling in itself potentially causes problems because if people start to stock a lot more medicine that they would otherwise would have, if they looking for a three-month supply rather than one-month supply, well then of course that has an impact on the way the supply chain works and potentially causes problems in itself.

"We have been very clear with pharmacists and indeed with the general public - there is no need to stockpile.

"And actually stockpiling in itself potentially causes problems, which is why I think the message here and the messages in the UK is - we should not be stockpiling."

However, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) acknowledged that Brexit could have implications for the sourcing of drugs such as antibiotics, chemotherapy treatments and specialist diagnostic drugs.

"The key risk to medicine's supplies presented by a disorderly Brexit is due to potential customs delays," the HPRA said.

In the UK, health officials warned that stockpiling of medicines because of Brexit - particularly drugs made outside the UK - was already causing supply chain problems.

However, Mr Coveney said the Government had carefully planned for Brexit in terms of drugs made or sourced in the UK.

"Let me be very clear, because the set of challenges that the United Kingdom faces in relation to medicines may be quite different to the challenges that we face," he said.

"The challenges that we face are the fact that a lot of the medicines that would have been supplied into Ireland until now come either via the UK or from the UK, and the authorisations in the UK from the European Medicines Agency may not be possible in a 'crash out' Brexit situation.

"Therefore, we would have to essentially reroute how we access the medicines that we need certified or authorised in the EU as opposed to in the UK.

"There has been a lot of planning to make sure that that can happen in a way that is seamless."

The Tanaiste said Ireland currently has an adequate supply of all vital medications.

"We already have between 10 and 12 weeks of supply of medicines for the vast majority of medicines in Ireland and we have a Department of Health and HSE and other stakeholders here, including the private sector who are working together to make sure that we can have consistency of supply through Brexit regardless of whether it is a no deal  Brexit or not."

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