Is Brexit Causing Medicine Shortages In The UK?


The last thing you as a medical patient want is for whatever medication you desperately need to go out of stock, and that’s exactly what many people around the UK are now facing, according to a BBC report. Except, patients aren’t just having medication go out of stock temporarily, some are having to wait weeks, if not months on end for a single dosage of what they require. It’s easy to link common medicines being out of stock to Brexit, but apparently the imminent exit from the EU is not the direct cause of the drug shortage that thousands of people are impacted by each and every day.

Every month, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) publishes a list of drugs that are in such short supply that the Department of Health have agreed to pay a premium price for them. After analysing this list, the BBC found that there has been “a big rise” in the number of drugs deemed to be in short supply. There are currently 80 medicines on the list, which is almost double the amount that appeared on the October list which totalled 45. However, the BBC does note that there was a “spike” in November. The drugs on the list are used to treat a number of conditions including depression, high blood pressure (with a certain high blood pressure medication, Propranolol, also doubling up as a treatment for migraines), general pain and pain from menstrual cramps, and even nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

According to BBC, almost a third of the high-demand drugs on the December short supply list are included in the 500 most commonly prescribed medications. Despite this high figure, the director general of the British Generic Manufacturers Association, Warwick Smith avoided using the word “shortage” in his statement, and instead insisted on calling it a “tightening of supply.

So what exactly is at the root of the issue? Many people have suggested that it could come down to Brexit. However, according to experts on the topic, it might not be that simple after all. In a statement given to the BBC, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have not seen any evidence of current medicine supply issues linked to EU exit preparations.”

According to the BBC reports, everything is at higher costs due to global demand and exchange rate changes, which could be the main reason behind the ongoing problem. The PSNC said that the NHS could be to blame. By working out a good low cost deal with manufacturers, drugs companies may now be looking elsewhere to sell their products. While it is definitely possible that people personally stockpiling medication perhaps because of concerns around Brexit-related shortages could be worsening the problem, the government had already warned the public not to do this and only advised manufacturers to ensure they had at least six weeks worth’ of drugs in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Meaning, consumers had time to get medication they desperately needed in advance and weren’t solely left in the dark on the matter. Of course, the shortage has also impacted what brands of medication people opt to have. Many individuals around the UK have now been forced to change brands of medication, which may have alternative ingredients or side effects due to many pharmacist having run out ofthe usual (and often more popular) prescription medication.

Back in October of 2018, there was also a huge public response due to the unavailability of migraine prevention tablet, Migraleve, a popular drug that helps thousands of UK citizens each day. The event also suggests that there is in fact a supply problem in common medication which may have been ongoing for a few months.

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