The pharmaceutical industry is calling on the government to urgently provide more detail on how it plans to ensure a continued supply of medicines should the UK leave the EU under a ‘no-deal’ scenario.

The move follows publication of an open letter by Health Secretary Matt Hancock touching on the government’s preparations in the event that an agreement is not finalised.

According to Hancock, the European Commission has made it clear that under a ‘no deal’ scenario it will impose ‘full third country controls’ on people and goods entering the EU from the UK, the impact of which would likely be felt most on the short straits crossings into Dover and Folkestone, potentially affecting medicines supply.

“The revised cross-Government planning assumptions show that there will be significantly reduced access across the short straits, for up to six months,” he said.

The government has already asked that pharma companies stockpile medicines as part of a UK-wide ‘no deal’ contingency plan, but “it is clear that in light of the changed border assumptions…this will now need to be supplemented with additional actions,” Hancock noted, adding: “I am writing in parallel to pharmaceutical companies, and my officials will continue to work closely with these companies to develop our plans”.

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the ABPI, said pharmaceutical companies “continue to do everything in their power to make sure that patients get access to medicines whatever the Brexit scenario,” includingduplicating processes, changing supply routes and stockpiling medicines in line with the Government’s guidance. “However, we have been clear that there are things which are out of our control,” he stressed.

Hancock’s update on potential border delays for six months in a ‘No deal’ scenario is “stark,” he said, and argued that stockpiling more medicines “is not the solution to this problem”.

“While we welcome the Secretary of State’s intention to prioritise the flow of medicines and vaccines, we need the detail. With just 16 weeks until the UK leaves the EU, we need the Government to take immediate action to open up alternative supply routes between the UK and Europe and tell companies so that they can make plans.”

Warwick Smith, director general of the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), welcomed the government’s work with industry, but noted: “Whilst the outcome of Brexit clearly remains uncertain, it is now the time to accelerate this work and putting mitigating measures in place takes time.

“Therefore, while an update from the Secretary of State is helpful, it contains less detailed information than leaks from other Government Departments. It is vitally important that the Government shares with us and others all their current information so that we can plan accordingly.”