Novartis has issued a statement expressing concern over the state of medicine supply to the UK, and noting that it is building increased inventories across its portfolio of medicines in the UK.

The move follows parliament's rejection of prime minister Theresa May's proposed Brexit deal.

The Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant claimed that “the risk of UK exiting the EU without a deal is increased and this will be hugely impactful for patients, particularly around the supply and safety of medicine.”

It also stated that its priority is to ensure patients are able to access the Novartis, Sandoz and Alcon medicines and products they need, whilst continuing to execute contingency plans and make all preparations possible to ensure continuity of supply to UK patients of the over 120 million packs of medicines they import to the UK from Europe each year.

The statement also highlights that “it is vital that government makes minimising disruption to the medicines supply the highest priority as it prepares for a potential hard or disorderly Brexit and ensures cooperation over medicines regulation in this event.

“Given the complex nature of the supply chain, government needs to implement a comprehensive continuity plan rapidly that includes relevant departments beyond the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS, to ensure medicines can reach patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”

It also advised that NHS trusts and pharmacists adhere to the government’s advice not to stockpile medicines, so supply can be managed centrally, minimising the risk of medicine shortages across the UK.

Novartis makes a number of medicines ranging from cancer treatments through to anti-inflammatories, including Voltarol, and the Ritalin drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and is a major supplier to the NHS.