July 13, 2017 / 10:59 AM / a month ago

Disorderly Brexit could put patients at risk, drug industry warns

LONDON (Reuters) - The supply of life-saving medicines in Europe could be severely disrupted unless Britain successfully negotiates a smooth and orderly exit from the EU, pharmaceutical industry leaders warned on Thursday.

Europe's pharmaceutical and bio-science industry is concerned about Brexit because it is currently well integrated across the bloc, with many EU-wide regulatory agreements and cross-border collaborations.

In a letter to Brexit negotiators stressing the importance of securing ongoing co-operation on medicines after Britain leaves the European Union (EU), drug company representatives said a bad transition could put patients at risk.

"In the case of an unorderly withdrawal, there is a risk that all goods due to be moved between the UK and EU could be held either at border checks, in warehouses or manufacturing and/or subject to extensive retesting requirements," the letter said.

"In fact this would lead to a severe disruption of most companies’ supply chains, which would lead to potential supply disruptions of life-saving medicines."

The letter, addressed to Britain's Brexit minister David Davis and chief EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, was signed by heads of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, EuropaBio, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the BioIndustry Association, among others.

The industry leaders called for "as much certainty as possible, as early as possible" to enable the sector "to transition smoothly into the new framework".

Their call for a smooth transition comes a week after Britain's health minister Jeremy Hunt set out the UK government's plans for post-Brexit pharmaceutical regulation, signaling a desire for continued cooperation between the EU and the UK on drug regulations and medicines marketing approvals.

In their letter, the industry representatives said they supported that view:

"Securing ... agreement (on ongoing cooperation between the UK and EU on medicines) is the best way of ensuring that patients across Europe and the UK are able to continue to access safe and effective medicines and to ensure that there is no adverse impact on public health," they wrote.

Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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