Brexit has been looming for a while now but the pressure has increased in recent weeks as we approach the deadline and concerns over the supply of medicine rise. A report was released recently detailing what could happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Yellowhammer report suggests there could be disruptions to the supply of medicine for up to 6 months after Brexit, but is this the case and is there anything we can do to avoid this? 

We answer some of your questions about how Brexit may affect how you get your medicines in the future. 

What does a no-deal Brexit mean? 

The option we’re all concerned about the most is leaving the single market and customs union without any sort of deal secured. On the 31st of October, it’s highly possible that the UK may leave the European Union immediately without a deal. This will affect borders and how the UK currently trades with the EU which means there could be significant disruptions to how medicines get to and from the EU.  

Will there be a medicine shortage? 

There’s been lots of panic about medicine shortages and stockpiling medicines in the event that there is not enough supply. However, the government is putting measures in place to ensure medicine continues to be readily available. The government is working with the NHS, suppliers, pharmaceutical industry, and the entire medical industry to prevent shortages and ensure the UK can still get access to medicines. Some of the actions the government is taking include helping suppliers get access to medicines from the EU through alternative routes than Dover and Folkestone as there are predicted delays at these borders when Brexit arrives. 

The government is also advising pharmaceutical companies to stockpile a minimum of 6 weeks of extra supply and is preparing extra space in warehouses and on ferries to cater to this stockpile.   

Should I be buying more medicines now and stockpiling? 

As a patient or a member of the public, there is no need to buy more medicines than you need or would usually receive. You will not need to rush to buy extra supplies of paracetamol for example as there is no warning or advisement to the public to stockpile medicine. There should be no unnecessary stockpiling and your doctor should not write out longer prescriptions with more medicine than you need at that time. Your healthcare provider will have already made preparations for this scenario so there is still a constant supply of the medicines you need. 

What will be affected more, NHS or private healthcare? 

The government is working with all providers in the industry to ensure everybody has access to medicine whether this is through the NHS or privately. Although the NHS is under strain, all providers of medicine and medical devices will face the same challenges and put in place the same preparations. 

What will happen to the quality and safety of medicines in the UK? 

As the UK divorces the EU, it will also be leaving the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The EMA monitors the safety of medicines in the EU, but what does this mean for the future safety of medicines in the UK when it parts from the EMA? 

All roles and responsibilities of the EMA in the UK would be taken over by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). All medicines, medical devices, and treatments will continue to be fully regulated and clinically trialled in the UK, under the supervision of the MHRA and therefore the standard of quality and safety of medicines in the UK will be the same. 

Will the way I get my medicines change? 

Medicine shortage Brexit

There’s great uncertainty when it comes to Brexit but as far as we know now there won’t be any drastic changes to how you get medicine and you should continue to get your medication as normal. Doctors and pharmacists will be operating as usual, and it’s important to remember that the industry is well equipped to deal with shortages if they were to occur. The industry does experience medicine shortages from time to time anyway and there are several ways of dealing with this. 

For instance, if there is a shortage of your usual contraceptive pill you may be prescribed a suitable alternative, you may even be given the generic version of your branded medication. There are no differences between a generic or branded version of a drug apart from cost. Branded medicines are more expensive than generic versions but the active ingredients and uses remain the same. Read our guide on generic vs branded medication.    

Should I be worried about a no-deal Brexit? 

A Brexit with a deal is more reassuring than a Brexit without a deal but in regards to medicine, it seems that the government and all healthcare providers are doing everything in their power to prepare for all eventualities, including worse case scenarios. A no-deal Brexit will bring changes into effect immediately, the UK will no longer be a member of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), but your medicines and the way you receive them is not likely to change. All healthcare services will operate as normal but if you are worried about getting your specific medication after Brexit you should speak to your GP or pharmacist for advice. 

Will Doctor 4 U operate as normal after Brexit? 

So far it's uncertain which way Brexit will go but here at Doctor 4 U, we have preparations in place for either outcome. Our doctors who are registered by the General Medical Council will continue to prescribe as normal and the medicines you receive will still be fully regulated and of the highest standard of quality and safety set by the MHRA. If any medicine shortages do occur you will be informed of this on our website, and we're doing everything in our power to ensure the smooth running of this service after Brexit. 

Whatever happens on October 31st our service will continue to operate but feel free to get in touch with our team if you have any questions about our service.