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Brexit Health Alliance urges Brexit negotiators to put patients first

9 Apr 2018

The Brexit Health Alliance has warned that people may face long delays in getting new medicines as a result of Brexit. Research cooperation and access to clinical trials may also be affected, the organisation said.

The alliance is urging Brexit negotiators to prioritise patients and public health during the second phase of negotiations.

The Brexit Health Alliance includes NHS bosses, industry and medical research bodies, patients and public health organisations. It aims to protect the interests of patients, as well as safeguarding healthcare and research.

The alliance has published a briefing paper warning about how Brexit may affect people in the UK and the EU. The paper discusses the impact on patients if there is a disruption in trade between the UK and the EU. It also says a lack of cooperation in the regulation of medicines and medical devices may result.

The alliance is urging Brexit negotiators to prioritise cooperation on medicines and medical devices between the UK and the EU. It is calling on them to work towards a deal where research data can be shared and everyone can take part in medical trials.

Minimising disruption and delay

The briefing paper includes an example from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). In a series of tweets, the ABPI describes how Brexit could affect epilepsy and chemotherapy medicines produced by the company Eisai.

These are currently produced at the company’s UK facility in Hertfordshire, but ingredients for them are imported from the EU. The finished products are then exported to the EU and worldwide. According to the briefing paper, Eisai is looking at moving their testing facility outside the UK, in case a favourable trade deal is not struck.

The ABPI tweeted: “Production of pharmaceuticals often involves multiple cross-border transfers between the UK and EU states and EFTA [European Free Trade Association] countries.

“Ensuring cancer and epilepsy patients have uninterrupted access to our medicines is vital and must not be interrupted by #Brexit. We need to keep in mind how we minimise the potential disruption or delay to patients as we negotiate #Brexit.”

Patients must not lose out

Niall Dickson, co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance, said: “It is critical that UK and EU patients do not lose out on the best treatments and medical devices as the UK leaves the EU.

“We want to make sure that patients continue to benefit from early access to new health technologies and cutting-edge medicines, and that includes being able to take part in international clinical trials.”

Following the Brexit vote, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced it will move its headquarters from London to Amsterdam. This organisation oversees and evaluates medicines across the EU, which currently still includes the UK.

Recently, the EMA has looked at implementing new safety measures around the epilepsy medicine sodium valproate. Pharmaceutical company GW Pharma has also submitted an application to the EMA for its cannabidiol medicine Epidiolex. This is aimed for treatment of Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. If approved, this medicine will become available in the EU.


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