Pipette taking medicine from a tray

UK and EU reach agreement in principle affecting supply of medicines

Reports out of the ongoing Brexit negotiations suggest that an agreement in principle has been struck between UK and EU negotiators, covering a number of aspects including the supply of medicines and how border control posts will operate for Northern Ireland.

Negotiations are firmly into the eleventh hour at present, as discussions race to reach an agreement ahead of January 1, 2021.

Further urgency to negotiations has also come about due to time being needed to put any relevant legislation through parliamentary scrutiny.

The uninterrupted supply of medicine has been a key point of concern for many across the UK health sector, with fears over a no-deal Brexit leading to potential delays in supply of products.

Disruptions in the supply chain were already seen earlier throughout the year as a result of Covid-19, with supply routes in many cases already having had to flex and build back resiliency.

Back in September 2020, following guidance having been released by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Chief Executive of ABPI, Richard Torbett, said: ““Companies face significant changes in how the complex environment for medicines regulations will operate in 2021.

“If we are to ensure uninterrupted supply for the NHS from January, the MHRA must continue to work closely with them on details related to individual medicines as well as on issues related to the Northern Ireland Protocol and on other areas of regulation.

“However, we have always said that the best way to avoid disruption in the long term is for both sides to consider the impact on patients in the UK and the EU and agree a deal.”

In reaching a mutual position on a number of these key issues, the UK Government has formally stated it will withdraw controversial clauses from its Internal Market Bill – a largely symbolic olive branch it had offered a few days ago, and will now make formal.

The details of the agreement have not yet been published, but are expected to be ratified in the coming days. They will take effect regardless of whether the UK and EU negotiators can agree a trade deal.

Negotiations around a Brexit trade deal remain ongoing, with a number of sticking points remaining. However, a number of government officials including Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove have praised the reaching of this agreement as representing positive forward progress.

Read more about Brexit and it's impacts on healthcare through our dedicated Brexit Resource Hub:

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