MPs have called on the Government to guarantee the continuity of medicine supplies after Brexit.
A report published by parliamentary select committee the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday (12 October) urged the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to share its action plan by December to ensure medicine supplies and address price increases before and after the UK leaves the EU.
In June, Government auditors the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that 708 concessionary prices granted by the DHSC were set ‘higher than necessary’ above wholesalers’ prices, resulting in an additional cost of £86.3m.
Call for action
Despite regulations allowing the DHSC to collect information from manufacturers and wholesalers on generic medicine prices and limit prices, PAC chair Meg Hillier MP argued that the Government has failed to set out a ‘full range of actions’ to tackle future price increases.
She said: ‘The impact of last year’s generic drug price increases should have served as a wake-up call to Government.
‘Yet while the DHSC now has new powers at its disposal, it could not explain to us how these will better enable it to handle similar price increases and related shortages in the future.
‘This is unacceptable and doubly worrying in the context of uncertainty over supply chains after Brexit, particularly for medicines with a short shelf life.’
The PAC is expecting the Government to reveal its plans by December to ensure patients access their medicines and to reduce the impact of price rises on ‘stretched NHS resources’, Ms Hillier added.
A DHSC spokesperson told The Pharmacist today (15 October): ‘We’re working closely with partners to ensure adequate stockpiles are in place for all medicines which may be affected in the event of a no deal Brexit.
‘Our number one priority is to ensure that patients have access to safe and effective medicines – and we have some of the cheapest drug prices in Europe.’
Shortages a big issue
The PAC pointed out the ‘extra efforts’ pharmacies had to make to obtain out-of-stock medicines following manufacturing issues last spring.
Commenting on the report, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) regional representative for the North East and Cumbria Mark Burdon said: ‘As we know and is made clear in the report, generic medicines shortages are a very complex global issue and with Brexit on the horizon that is likely to remain the case.
‘We would now like to see the DHSC working with us to develop a fairer and more responsive concession system that ensures that hard working pharmacies do not face unfair risks, and that the impact of supply problems is not passed on to them or their patients.’