Doctors urge ministers to reveal extent of drug stockpiling ahead of Brexit

Posted On: 
19th January 2019

A senior doctors' group has urged the government to be “transparent” about the availability of key drugs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Doctor's have called for the Department for Health and Social Care to reassure patients about drug stocks.
Credit: 
PA

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which represents tens of thousands of doctors in the UK, said it was most concerned about the availability of medicines that are already in short supply or require refrigeration, such as insulin.

The Guardian reports that patients are already stockpiling drugs and ordering some medicines from abroad, despite official guidance that this is no necessary.

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Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, told the paper: “Faith in the system will be created by openness and regular updates to trusts and clinicians; this will allow clinicians to reassure patients.”

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents pharmacies, has meanwhile warned that the prices of generic drugs are “seeing another surge” amid market shortages and Brexit fears.

Generic drugs are usually bought through set national tariff prices, but pharmacies can apply for price concessions via the NHS when the drugs are in short supply.

The number of concessions applied for by the PSNC rose from 45 in October to 87 in December last year.

According to the PSNC, 80 per cent of prescriptions made in the UK are for generic drugs and around half of generic drugs are shipped via mainland Europe.

Robin Hewings, the head of policy at Diabetes UK, also urged ministers to be more open to reassure patients, especially those with diabetes.

He said: “There is a level of concern that has risen quite a lot [in the last few months] and people with diabetes are talking about stockpiling. The government needs to be more transparent about insulin supplies.

“If we are in a situation where supplies are constrained, and people then start trying to get a lot more insulin than they need ... I worry about the way that might play out.”

Last month, the Department of Health and Social Care revealed plans to allow pharmacists dispense an alternative medicine, rather than a specific prescription, without having to contact a GP.

The Health Secretary Matthew Hancock denied that the move was related to Brexit, claiming that it was designed to help pharmacists in the event of supplier issues and other shortages.  

A Department for Health spokesperson said: "We have not seen any evidence of current medicine supply issues linked to EU exit preparations."