Pharmaceutical groups have weighed in on the UK parliament’s rejection of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Commenting on the decision made by UK parliament to vote down Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) urged negotiators to agree on certain actions that it says need to be taken in order to protect patients.

"With the prospect of the UK leaving the EU in a disorderly manner on March 30, 2019, without a deal, there are very real, tangible and immediate threats to patient safety and public health in both the UK and across Europe.”

It also recommended the development of measures to recognise UK-based testing until it can be transferred to the EU.

In addition, the industry group called for continued UK participation in key data-sharing platforms that protect public health and drug safety in Europe, in addition to discussions between relevant authorities and the sector to formulate contingency plans such as creating fast track lanes or priority routes for drugs through ports and airports.

Also commenting on the deal's demise, Mike Thompson, chief executive of the ABPI, said: "We reiterate that ‘no deal’ would prove to be extremely challenging. With time running out we hope Parliament will come together and quickly find a solution to the stalemate and reassure patients that medicines will not be disrupted come March 2019."

The news comes shortly after the UK government warned that access at UK ports could be significantly reduced for up to six months if the country leaves the EU without an exit agreement. Previously, the UK's Department of Health and Social Care asked drugmakers to stockpile at least six weeks' worth of medicines to ensure that drug access was not interrupted for NHS patients in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Gavin Davidson, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, offered his view on how Brexit could impact the UK healthcare industry’s contribution to the UK economy:

“Throughout 2018, the global biopharma industry’s opinion of the UK as an attractive place to base research and manufacturing has steadily eroded and last night’s vote will have done nothing to improve this sentiment with the looming possibility of a ‘No Deal Brexit’.

‘‘In a series of quarterly surveys (Q1-Q3), GlobalData asked key respondents from the US, UK, and EU healthcare markets, whether or not they thought that the UK will remain an attractive place to do central business. In all markets, decreases in ‘yes’ answers were observed; however in the UK and EU markets, confidence has collapsed with abysmal rates of 17% and 19% respectively after Q3."

“The UK has always been at the forefront of pharmaceutical and biotechnical investment and development. For this position to be maintained, companies based in the UK want certainty on the outcome of Brexit and with MPs now debating ‘what next’, the stakes couldn’t be higher with the healthcare industries' £70 billion ($88.5 billion) per annum contribution to the UK economy at risk if the country ends up with a no deal Brexit, an outcome that the EU has now escalated its planning for.”