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Alternative brands can replace medicines if they become unavailable after Brexit

The Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the health minister said no medicine shortages have been identified.

The minister says he is meeting with stakeholders on a weekly basis to ensure there are no shortages.
The minister says he is meeting with stakeholders on a weekly basis to ensure there are no shortages.
Image: Shutterstock/funnyangel

IF CERTAIN MEDICATIONS are unavailable after Brexit, there are alternatives that can be used, the chief executive of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union said today. 

Officials from the Department of Health’s Primary Care Division, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), and the Health Service Executive (HSE) met today to discuss the preparedness for Brexit. 

Speaking after the stakeholder meeting, Darragh O’Loughlin said “there is no reason for panic or concern” from members of the public. 

“Even if it were the case after Brexit that the landscape looked different and certain medications were no longer available in the Irish market, there will always be clinical and therapeutic alternatives ,so no one will go untreated. Every illness will be treatable, it just might be that a particular brand of medicine that somebody is taking will be replaced by an unfamiliar brand that does exactly the same thing,” he said. 

Health Minister Simon Harris said when it comes to monitoring the situation, it won’t end on the 31 October, deal or no deal.

“This will continue to require ongoing vigilance as we make sure that the alternative supply routes are in place and continue to look at emergency contingency arrangements.”

No medicine shortages

He said there are no concerns about medicine shortages because of Brexit, something the HPRA also indicated last week.

Some medicines, including those used to treat certain cancers, have a short shelf life and cannot be stockpiled, said the minister.

Harris explained that there is generally a number of weeks of stock built up, and said he is informed that the industry is satisfied that there is sufficient stock to deal with any potential issues in terms of delays that could happen in ports and other places.

“We should be aware Brexit is a permanent state of change and therefore will require constant and ongoing vigilance.

When asked if people can expect to pay more for their medicines post-Brexit, the health minister said “a lot of that depends on where Brexit ends up” and what the future trading relationship looks like with Britain. 

He added that the State is not paying more for medicines because of Brexit.

He reiterated that there is no requirement to stockpile, adding that to do so would have unintended consequences to the normal supply chain.

“We’re still considering whether we want to put further contingency measures in place, by way of air, and keeping that under close review, but we’re not aware of any delay in relation to that.

“The 31st of October is just a date in a calendar, it’ll be one day, and if Brexit happens there will be many more days after that and we will need to continue to be vigilant.

“The difficulty of a delay at a port or the like, we have enough of a supply, that we’ll have enough to keep going until they’re through that delay.”

The minister added that his department, the HSE and HPRA would much rather be talking about other health issues.

“We’re spending so much of our time preparing for Brexit,” he said.

Harris added that the cost of Brexit to the State has been “massive”.

“The opportunity cost of Brexit to Government and our citizens, in terms of a programme of work we’d rather be doing, is very clear, but having said that, Brexit is and must be national priority one, two and three.”

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