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Patients face a new normal of medicine shortages as the UK grapples with supply issues and the impact of leaving the EU.

Patients face a new normal of medicine shortages as the UK grapples with supply issues and the impact of leaving the EU.


Global supply issues have led to a shocking increase in shortages of life-saving drugs such as antibiotics and antiepileptic drugs, a new study published today shows. These shortages come at a cost to patients and taxpayers and are occurring despite the NHS spending hundreds of millions more to alleviate the problem. The UK risks being given the cold shoulder by the EU's coordinated attempts to resolve this issue.

This is the key to drug shortages in the UK in the context of global issues in supply chains and the availability of key ingredients, according to a new report from the Nuffield Trust Think Tank and academic group, supported by the Health Foundation. We investigated the indicators. The report found that drug shortages have continued to increase over the past two years in a ‘new normal’ where critical products are frequently discontinued.

Key findings about drug shortages include:

Price concessions (where the government provides additional funding because there are no drugs left at NHS prices) have increased sharply in recent months. Before 2016, it rarely exceeded 20 per month, but by the end of 2022 it peaked at 199 and remains high. From then on. Excess costs for drugs that received price discounts reached $220 million per year through September 2023. The number of notices from pharmaceutical companies warning of impending shortages is now more than double what it was three years ago. In 2023, there were 1,634 such alerts compared to 648 in 2020 (the 2021 surge was driven by concerns about supply concerns in Northern Ireland after Brexit). The UK has had a slower drug approval rate than the EU for centrally approved new drugs. Of the drugs approved in Europe by December 2023, 56 were later approved in the UK and eight were not. Four were approved sooner.

The report shows that while leaving the EU has not led to a recent surge in medicine shortages, it is likely to significantly weaken the UK's ability to respond by decoupling European supply chains, licensing and collective efforts to respond to medicines shortages. In particular, the study highlights the risks posed to the UK if it is excluded from key initiatives such as the Critical Medicines Alliance and the Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism, which EU member states lead to work together to protect themselves from the effects of medicine shortages. Highlights risks.

The research, published as part of a wider report supported by the Health Foundation titled The future of health after Brexit, also found that Brexit had forced the NHS to rely on ethically dubious sources of migration to bolster its workforce by recruiting from the red list. In just one year, the country has grown by almost a third. Life sciences and medical regulation lags behind the EU.

Mark Dayan, Nuffield Trust Brexit Program Director, said:

“The growing shortage of essential medicines from orphan to generic is a shocking development that few would have predicted a decade ago. Across the UK, more and more patients are experiencing pharmacists telling them their medicines may or may not be available. It's coming soon and may not be available anywhere nearby, which means a lot of extra work for both GPs and pharmacists.

We know that many of the problems are global and relate to fragile import chains from Asia, which are under pressure from COVID-19 lockdowns, inflation and global instability. British officials put in place much more sophisticated systems for monitoring and response and used additional payments to keep product flowing. However, leaving the EU has created some additional problems for the UK, with products no longer able to cross EU borders smoothly, and in the long term, efforts to approve many medicines may mean there will be fewer alternatives available.

Professor Tamara Hervey, City Law School, said:

There is nothing inevitable about this new normal of isolation as the UK struggles to manage vulnerabilities in the global supply of goods and people needed to run the NHS. This is a result of policy choices and circumstances may vary. “If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it's that the world is an interconnected place, and having warm relationships with our close neighbors helps us provide the health care our people deserve.”

The study is based on freedom of information requests and analysis of public data on medicine shortages, and was informed by a series of interviews and roundtables with experts and top officials. The authors argue that addressing the problems identified requires a more collaborative and proactive approach to EU/UK relations than the current one, and call for the government to better anticipate medicine shortages and be more open about the prospects for patients and the NHS . Better planning for such shortages and drug stockpiling.

It ends.




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