Hard to swallow

Steve Bassam on an absence of government thinking that would offer some post-Brexit certainty to the UK medicines industry

Much has been made by the government of the link between Brexit and its ability to pass a Brexit dividend onto the NHS. Few people are convinced that much of that dividend exists. Fewer still think that our departure from the EU will release new money for under pressure health and care services. And more worrying is the continued stalemate with the EU27 over the terms of Brexit and the implications of ‘no deal’ for both the UK’s pharmaceutical industry and medical supplies.

Since the inception of the NHS seventy years ago, we have become a world leader in the development of new drugs. Given the scale of the sector in the UK, medical professionals were deeply disappointed when it became clear that an early casualty of Brexit would be our role in the European Medicines Agency. Something that was doubly underlined when its move to Amsterdam was announced.

There are now real concerns across the health and care sector that the UK will become cut off from new advances in drug treatments once we become more distant from advanced research taking place in the EU. The network of academic research institutions and their relationship with the NHS service and pharma companies is essential to new drug developments. Quite how we expect to fare post-Brexit will remain unclear until there is a withdrawal agreement covering the issue.

Ministers therefore, need to be more forthcoming on what sort of risk assessment they have been undertaking of the impact on medicines in the event of ‘no deal’. We have heard much in recent weeks of the need for a ‘just in time’ delivery line for the automotive supplies and parts that feed motor manufacturing. So just imagine the impact on health and care if we don’t have agreements in place on medical supplies and a proper relationship with its regulatory agency.

We need to know how advanced government thinking is on this issue. Have they got a plan B for medicines? What will our relationship with the medicines approval and regulatory body look like? If the recent chaos over the licensing of medicinal cannabis is any measure, further ministerial platitudes at the dispatch box will be hard to swallow.

Lord Steve Bassam is a Labour Peer. He tweets @StevetheQuip

Published 4th July 2018

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