Delivery of medicines is unlikely to be disrupted as a result of France’s ban on freight and travel from the UK, the wholesaler's trade body has told the Pharmacist.

Martin Sawer, executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA), said today (21 December) he was confident that there will be no disruption to the medicine supply chain during the 48-hour ban imposed on hauliers carrying freight from Britain.

‘The UK government and wholesalers have had time to build up stockpiles of additional medicines and medical supplies over the last two years in preparation for a no-deal Brexit,’ Mr Sawer said, which means there should be no impact on medicine supply ‘at the moment’.

He also said the ban would not affect imports of the Covid-19 vaccine.

According to national news reports, more than 40 countries have now announced a ban on UK arrivals over Covid, including Belgium, India, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Russia.

It follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of new tier 4 restrictions and curbs on Christmas rules at a press conference on Saturday in response to a new mutation of the virus.

‘No immediate impact’

Mr Sawer told the Pharmacist that over the past two weeks, medicine manufacturers have also been offered alternative ferry routes to the UK, which avoid Calais-Dover ports.

As it stands, ‘the French freight ban will not affect these routes,’ the director explained.

He added ‘that only accompanied freight is being affected, therefore unaccompanied freight carrying medicines, which don’t come with people or drivers, won’t be affected and will be able to enter the UK easily’.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed that medicines are not expected to be affected by the ban.

‘The French measures apply to passengers and freight moving from the UK into France and patients can be reassured that they will continue to receive the medicines and medical products they need,’ they said.

Wholesaler, Alliance Healthcare (AH), also told the Pharmacist that it expected ‘no immediate impact to supply in the UK if the border closures are limited to 48 hours, as expected’.

The AH spokesperson added: ‘Based on previous years, we do not normally expect large amounts of stock movements during the Christmas week, however, we will be reviewing this on an ongoing basis.’

In response to ban on UK arrivals Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said: 'Preparations for Brexit - and our work carried out throughout this pandemic - means that pharmaceutical companies have contingencies in place for border emergencies in line with the Government’s worst-case scenario planning.

He added: 'We understand that companies are confident at this current time that medicines and vaccines - including the COVID-19 vaccine - will continue to reach patients.'

'This includes additional buffer stocks of medicines already in the UK and the ability to re-route supplies away from the short strait channel crossings. 

'We are closely monitoring the situation and working with the UK Government as they deal with issues regarding the UK’s borders.'