EMA feeling better about drug supply interruptions from Brexit

Sanofi has said it might helicopter vaccines in to the U.K. if Brexit issues stand in the way of deliveries. (Pixabay)

The European Medicines Agency says concerns over drug shortages stemming from Brexit have eased, but not all drugmakers feel the same.

The EMA reported this week that it has revised its list of drugs whose supplies might be disrupted by the separation of the U.K. from the European Union next year to 39 from its previous estimate of 108.

Noël Wathion, EMA’s deputy executive director, said in a statement that the agency has been assured by many of the makers of the 108 medicines it was uncertain about that they have taken needed steps to minimize supply risks.

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Of the remaining 39 drugs, 25 are for humans and the other 14 are veterinary drugs. The EMA said it is trying to figure out how to reduce the impact if there are difficulties with supplies of those.

Many Big Pharmas have invested to ensure that even if no trade agreements have been hammered out ahead of the March separation, drugs keep flowing across borders seamlessly.

RELATED: Ahead of Brexit, U.K.'s top insulin provider Novo Nordisk plans to double its stockpile

But AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told the Sunday Times that he is worried about problems getting drugs across borders. The U.K. drugmaker is increasing its medicine stockpiles by 20% in hopes of having plenty of approved drugs ready for patients. Meanwhile, he said the company “wasted” £40 million to duplicate laboratories in Sweden so that it can test and authorize its drugs in Europe to meet EU rules that could result from a so-called hard Brexit.

“I hope more and more people get worried,” he told the newspaper.

Drug and vaccine makers are making logistics plans, assuming long lines at checkpoints if the U.K. and EU negotiators can’t hammer out a deal on trade. Sanofi has committed to stockpiling 14 weeks’ worth of drugs and said it’d consider flying flu vaccines into the U.K. because of tight timelines required to deliver the products. If the parties could agree, Sanofi also said it would consider marking trucks to make a fast pass through customs.

Other top players in the pharma industry have been detailing their Brexit plans, as well. Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have both said changes to their supply chains will cost $100 million each to ensure supply. Merck, for its part, plans a 6-month drug supply. Novo Nordisk says it'll more than double its normal 7-week stockpile to 16 weeks' worth of insulin. The company supplies more than half of the U.K.’s insulin, according to The Independent.