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Millions of patients could be affected by ‘no-deal’ Brexit medicines shortages

Exclusive: In an interview with The Pharmaceutical Journal, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency chair Sir Michael Rawlins has warned that insulin supply could be disrupted in the face of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit because the UK imports “every drop of it”.

Many patients — including the prime minister herself — could be “seriously disadvantaged” by disruption to the drug supply chain if the UK exits the EU without a deal, the head of the UK’s medicines regulator has said.

In comments made in a “personal capacity” to The Pharmaceutical Journal, Sir Michael Rawlins, chair of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said that the supply of medicines such as insulin could be disrupted because the UK does not manufacture it and transporting it is complicated as its storage has to be temperature-controlled.

Prime minister Theresa May has type 1 diabetes and is known to use insulin to control it.

Rawlins said that the government needed to “work out how” the supply of some medicines are going to be guaranteed in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

He said: “There are problems and the Department for Exiting the EU and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) needs to work out how it’s going to work.

“Here’s just one example why: we make no insulin in the UK. We import every drop of it. You can’t transport insulin around ordinarily because it must be temperature-controlled. And there are 3.5 million people [with diabetes, some of whom] rely on insulin*, not least the prime minister.”

Rawlins went on to say that the government needed to honour its promises that patients would not be disadvantaged by the UK leaving the EU in March 2019.

He added: “Disruption to the supply chain is one of the ways that patients could be seriously disadvantaged. It could be a reality if we don’t get our act together. We can’t suddenly start manufacturing insulin — it’s got to be sorted, no question.”

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