Three quarters of all medicines enter the UK by way of the English Channel, using the main crossing between the UK and France. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, delays along the shipping routes in the English Channel are expected to last up to six months.
Some medications can be stockpiled to avoid shortages, but certain drugs and treatments, such as radiotherapy treatments for cancers that have half-lives of less than six months, or simply drugs with short shelf lives. In these cases, it is not possible to stockpile supplies. Ongoing drug shortages are already occurring due to increases in cost and manufacturers cutting production of unprofitable medication lines.
More than 30 types of medicines are already affected by current shortages. Pharmacist suppliers have published a list of medications that are already experiencing price increases and reduced availability. The list currently contains 60 different medications including blood pressure medications, antidepressants, contraceptives, certain cancer treatments, antipsychotics, and hormone therapy drugs.
Sharp price increases and reduced availability of drugs will affect pharmacies and hospitals, but there is also the increased demand for GP appointments to redo prescriptions due to drug shortages. GP practices often don’t know that a medication is no longer in stock until a patient returns to the surgery. More concerning, is the possibility of serious clinical incidents in the event of drug shortages. Some of the medications on the list of possible shortages are used as treatments for serious conditions such as hypertension, psychosis and types of epilepsy.