Reports have emerged in recent days that the UK has banned exports of medicines which could have been used to treat Covid-19 patients. Discourse between the European Union and vaccine manufacturers is growing on the continent too, around the apparently unequal distribution of vaccine doses, while the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a recent Downing Street press conference that he simply didn’t want border “restrictions” placed on medicines.
So, what is the truth? Are the UK restricting the exporting of medicines from the country?
No, is the short answer according to Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).
Longer form, the answer is more to do with misunderstandings between what the UK Government is restricting, and what it is not.
Mr Torbett explained: “Global supply chains are absolutely vital in ensuring that manufacturers can get medicines and vaccines to people who need them, wherever they are in the world.
"The UK Government is not restricting exports by manufacturers of any medicine or vaccine.
"Parallel exporting – where a wholesaler buys medicines meant for patients in one country and sell on for a higher price to another country, potentially aggravating supply problems – is a completely different issue.
“Limiting some parallel exporting during a pandemic is a sensible decision and one which has been taken by a number of countries, including in the EU.”
And this is what the UK has been limiting - and has been doing for some time during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UK has had published guidance to wholesalers on the list of medicines which are either limited or temporarily prohibited from being horded or exported from the UK due to domestic need. This is a list of products which has been in effect for over a year and is routinely updated as need, availability and demand change over time.