Brexit and epilepsy – where are we now?

Published: August 14 2019
Last updated: September 28 2022

The recent change of Prime Minister in the UK is relevant to people with epilepsy for many reasons. One of the most important of these is Brexit.

Since entering Downing Street, Boris Johnson has made it clear his priority is to ensure Britain leaves the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019. This means the government is preparing for Britain to leave the EU on 31 October, deal or no-deal.

Epilepsy Action published information about what a no-deal could mean for people with epilepsy in August 2018. Much of this is still relevant today. It’s also worth looking at our previous post about Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs). The Serious Shortage Protocol sets out how the government would deal with a ‘serious shortage’ of any particular medicine, including antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).

It’s important to note Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he is committed to trying to reach a new agreement with the EU before the 31 October. The reality is that time is running out and it seems as if a potential no-deal Brexit is increasingly likely.

From listening to people with epilepsy it’s clear that many want to know how a no-deal Brexit might affect the supply of vital medicines.

In recent weeks Epilepsy Action has been involved in conversations with the Department of Health and Social Care and with NHS England about these issues. These conversations have included open discussions about plans to ensure people with long-term conditions are able to continue to access vital medicines.

Steps being taken by the government include stockpiling medicines and additional freight capacity including air and sea routes that avoid the Dover-Calais crossing. Commitments have also been made that medicines and medical supplies will be prioritised in the event of any delays at the border.

The government have made £434 million available to help fund these efforts and try to ensure that medicines continue to be available in any circumstances. These are all important steps to help ensure that people with epilepsy are not put at an increased risk in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Epilepsy Action remains concerned about the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on people with epilepsy. While there has been some progress around how the government engages with patient organisations on this issue, there is still much more to do.

Talking to patient organisations is important but it’s even more vital for the government to communicate directly with patients. If supplies of medicines are affected people must know what to do, this is even more important for people with epilepsy.

While we welcome the efforts of the government – we remain concerned that a potential no-deal Brexit could negatively affect people with epilepsy. Over 75% of UK medicines have an EU touchpoint, this number is likely to be similar for anti-epileptic drug (AEDs). People with epilepsy cannot be put at an increased risk, deal or no-deal.

We will continue to engage critically and constructively with the government on this issue and ensure that the views of people with epilepsy are at the heart of these discussions. We will also let you know whenever new and relevant information becomes available.