Health and Medicine

Hard Brexit could deprive Ireland of key medicines

Irish patients could face drug shortages after a hard Brexit, a pharmaceutical body has warned.

Medicines for Ireland, which represents the country’s largest drug suppliers, said that costs could rise while drugs with a short shelf life could be at risk of expiring if they were delayed by border checks.

The group will set out a series of negative consequences that Irish patients could face at a Health Products Regulatory Authority event today. Stakeholders have been invited to examine the impact on the sector of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Sandra Gannon, general manager of Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland and chairwoman of the group, said that Britain leaving the customs union and single market would be the “worst case scenario” for patients and manufacturers because there was no reason to think that the present regulatory structures would remain in place.

“In fact, it would signal strongly an intention for the UK to apply its own standards and regulatory requirements,” she said.

Ireland has been able to share batches of medicines with Britain but could in the future face problems accessing drugs because the country’s population is too small to buy in bulk.

“The issue of medicine shortages is another concern. Already, 140 medicines are out of stock and we are at risk of further shortages due to Ireland’s dependence on the much larger British market,” Ms Gannon said.

“Without the ability to batch-share, the small size of the Irish market may make it commercially unsustainable for manufacturers to supply to Ireland. That would seriously damage Ireland’s interests both in terms of patient access to medicines and the inevitable rise in cost which would occur.”

The British government said that it wanted a hard Brexit but has not set out in detail what kind of customs and border arrangements it was considering.

Medicines for Ireland said that every hour of a customs delay in the event of a hard border would increase the cost of drugs, which would have an impact on the health service and patients.