Brexit is Costly, UK Drugmakers say
Uncertainty about the effects of Brexit on the pharmaceuticals sector is forcing British drugmakers to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to maintain the steady supply of medicines to patients, according to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.
This, said the industry lobby’s CEO. Mike Thompson, is siphoning off money that could have gone to developing new treatments. “People will look back and say this money has been wasted,” he told the news agency Bloomberg. “Every pound and euro, we want to invest into science and research and finding new medicines.”
As Thompson noted, pharmaceutical companies will face potential regulatory and trade hurdles after the UK quits the EU. This will require expansion of testing facilities, moving marketing authorizations and drafting contingency plans, and if Britain remains part of Europe’s drug-approval system, a lot of the investment may prove to have been unnecessary, he commented.
The UK pharma sector’s two biggest players, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, have already said they may have to increase their use of EU testing facilities. Glaxo has estimated its Brexit costs as high as £70 million over the next two to three years. Merck & Co. of the US has been quoted as saying it may stockpile up to six months of goods and revise trade routes to be ready for supply blackouts and bottlenecks.
British companies are also concerned about possible delays in evaluating new drugs when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) moves to Amsterdam from London. EMA executive director, Guido Rasi, said recently he expects higher-than-anticipated staff departures due to a host of issues, although new British jobs may be created in the Netherlands by drugmakers setting up offices close to the agency.
In cooperation with their government, Thomas told Bloomberg that British drugmakers are poised to unveil a fresh round of investment commitments in life sciences toward the end of this year, following an initial announcement by more than two dozen companies late last year.
Drugmakers from outside the UK may also invest there, he added. “The fundamentals in the UK remain strong.”
Elsewhere, the British BioIndustry Association is worried about a hard Brexit. "In such a case, there is no legal certainty about the future regulation of vaccines and medicines,” said its CEO Steve Bates. “The worst case scenario is that vaccines may not be available.”
The only major vaccines produced in the UK are the seasonal flu shot and the anthrax vaccine. At present, vaccines produced in the EU are authorized by the EMA for use in Britain, but it this could change if the country does not remain part of the approval system.