Saturday 23 February 2019

Drugs shortages kicking in for Irish patients as British build stockpiles of medicines

Simon Harris
Simon Harris
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Irish patients may be suffering a shortage of some drugs as the UK builds up a stockpile ahead of its departure from the EU.

There are currently shortages of a local anaesthetic injection used by hospitals and dentists. Two brands of blood pressure tablets are also running low.

Darragh O'Loughlin, head of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said there was no evidence of a direct link between the UK stockpiling and shortages here but there are increasing anecdotal reports that it was having an effect.

He called on Health Minister Simon Harris to make contingency planning for the supply of medicines a top government priority amid rising fears of a no-deal Brexit.

More than 75 million prescriptions are made each year in Ireland and the impact of a no-deal Brexit "could be profound", said Mr O'Loughlin.

"Almost 70pc of medicines supplied in Ireland come to us from or through the UK. In addition, six out of 10 medicines in Irish pharmacies share packaging or leaflets with the UK market.

"The testing of medicines may also be severely impacted. Typically, every batch of medicine imported into the EU undergoes 'batch testing'.

"This involves confirming by laboratory analysis that it has the correct composition. Medicines from the UK which did not require batch testing in 2018 will require this process in 2019, risking delays in the delivery of medicines to wholesalers, to pharmacies and, ultimately, to patients.

"This would generate additional costs for suppliers, which would inevitably be passed on to patients and the State," added Mr O'Loughlin.

Stockpiling was "not a feasible solution to any medicines supply difficulties post-Brexit".

"Even if pharmacies and wholesalers had the physical storage space to do so, this would still only be a short-term measure. We need clear guidance and practical solutions to benefit patients.

"There is an urgent requirement for a transition period to be agreed with our EU partners so we can plan for any new testing or packaging requirements."

There were more than 15,000 medications authorised in the State: "Given the sheer scale of work that could be required to retain this supply of medicines, information about what contingencies are being put in place is long overdue and patients need to be reassured."

Irish Independent

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