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It has been over two years since 52% of UK voters decided that the country was better off leaving the European Union than staying in. Despite this, it sometimes feels as though no one is any closer to providing answers as to what Brexit will actually look like in practice than they were back then.
Among the many pressing issues to thrash out, such as how the Northern Irish border with the Republic is likely to be affected, it is of great concern that Brexit cold severely disrupt the passage of medicines between Britain and the EU. Whether you love or loathe the idea of Brexit, it is alarming how little solid information there is on how stock levels, the medicines supply chain and, by extension, patient care will be affected after Britain exits the EU in March 2019.
Naturally, concerns over patients’ access to vital medicines post-Brexit have dominated headlines in the British press of late. For example, the UK’s politicians have urged the Government to maintain medicines supplies after March, but it is still unclear as to what can feasibly be done to guarantee this – especially in light of global medicines shortages.
While it is welcome that politicans are at least discussing solutions to this potential problem, details are still very thin on the ground. With so little time left until Brexit comes into effect, it is incredibly important that talk turns into action and a firm plan is put in place to minimise disruption and maximise safety for pharmacists and patients alike.
In September, the Department of Health and Social Care revealed that if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, then all the hard work that has already gone into preparing for the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD ) implementation deadline in February may have to be reversed. This is likely to have many UK pharmacists wringing their hands. The prospect of all of that hard work preparing for FMD being wasted is certainly difficult to swallow. There is even less information on how this scenario could affect the rest of Europe.
For pharmacists to be able to offer the best – and safest – possible care to their patients, they need full and frank answers to quaestions on these pressing issues. So my challenge to both EU leaders and the British Government is this; stop the petty political point-scoring on both sides and start giving practical solutions to these obstacles. Patient care across Europe depends on it.