Medicine supply risks post-Brexit 'cannot be ruled out'
It is impossible to rule out all risks to the supply of medicines for patients here after Brexit, even with extensive preparations, health officials will warn today.
Lorraine Nolan, chief executive of the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), who will appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee, will outline how intensive contingency planning has been under way for two years to protect supplies.
However, she will also point to complexities such as the plans by companies which fly short shelf-life products from continental Europe to Ireland to continue to use East Midlands Airport after Brexit.
"I can point to radiopharmaceuticals which have a short shelf-life and very specialised transport and storage requirements," she will state.
Radioisotopes are needed for some cancer treatment and diagnostic scans.
"We have been in contact with the companies who supply these products to the Irish market who have confirmed their intention and plans to continue the supply to Ireland post-Brexit.
"We have also requested written assurances from the logistics provider involved," she will state.
"Currently all the responses we have received indicate that all parties believe that they can continue to supply the Irish market and all parties are actively considering contingency plans.
"However, this is a good example of the complexity and the many players that are involved in getting a product to Ireland.
"In this case, as the product is intended for both Ireland and the UK - and there is effectively only one carrier for the product - it must stop first at East Midlands Airport which introduces an element outside the control of all the parties."
According to Ms Nolan, a key part of our Brexit planning is to ensure that there is sufficient stock in Ireland so that temporary delays during transportation will not significantly affect access by patients to medicines.
"We have contacted all the primary wholesalers who have provided assurances that for the vast majority of medicines they will hold between eight to 10 weeks of stock.
"This level of stock holding will allow Ireland manage short-term disruptions to the supply of medicines. We have also, as part of our engagement with companies supplying the market, requested them to confirm that they will have sufficient stocks.
"No major supply concerns for continuity of patient care have been identified to date, and we have, through our shortages protocol, plans in place to address issues should they arise," she will say.