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Report Warns Brexit Could Delay Access to Drugs

09.11.2016 -

UK patients could face delays in accessing new medicines if there is a “hard Brexit”, warns a report published by Public Policy Projects (PPP), a think tank backed by major US-headquartered health consultancy QuintilesIMS. The report states that while there is a strong opportunity for the UK to remain a global center of excellence for life sciences, a “hard Brexit” would likely have a detrimental effect on the UK pharmaceuticals sector, the economy and patients.

A “hard Brexit” deal would likely see the UK give up full access to the single European market and its customs union with EU members, with tariffs probably introduced on UK goods and services. A “soft Brexit”, however, would leave the country’s relationship with the EU as close as possible to existing arrangements.

Drug companies currently use the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to obtain their licenses within the region but the UK is likely to quit the system if it severs ties with the EU. The harmonization of shared clinical trials and drug approvals processes between UK and European companies would be lost, leaving UK patients at the bottom of the list for accessing new and innovative treatments, experts argue.

This latest warning comes amid rising concern that the UK’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries could be hit hard by Brexit, given their international natures. Stephen Dorrell, chair of PPP and the NHS Confederation, and a former Secretary of State for Health, stressed that the life sciences sector is an essential British interest that must be a priority in Brexit negotiations. “We face a simple choice: we either participate in full in that global scientific community or we prejudice a key British national interest,” he said.

The report also underlined the importance of securing single-market access for the life sciences industry to guarantee free movement of scientists and ensuring regulatory alignment with the EU. Major UK drugmakers, including GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, are said to be seeking assurances from the government on the industry’s future following a post-Brexit deal supporting Japanese carmaker Nissan at its Sunderland, UK, factory.

Japanese pharmaceutical companies – at least 18 are said to have R&D operations in the UK – have already warned they would move to wherever the EMA is based. The agency is currently headquartered in London but will be forced to relocate.

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