Brits profit by exporting newly cheap drugs

Hear that new sucking sound? It's coming from a growing drain on U.K. drug supplies. As lower prices for prescription meds meet changes in the exchange rate, more and more drugs are finding their way out of the country for resale, industry watchers say. "This pricing discrepancy and the change in the exchange rate have created a financial incentive for either wholesalers, pharmacies or dispensing doctors to order extra medicines and sell them overseas for a quick profit," the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry says.

That's causing a shortage of drugs in the country, which drugmakers are hustling to combat with a surge of emergency deliveries, Reuters reports. During the first five months of this year, there were 77,020 emergency drug shipments from just three big drugmakers, according to ABPI. That's way, way, way up from the 6,134 over the same period last year.

When drug middlemen such as wholesalers and pharmacies resell meds into other, more lucrative markets, that's known as "parallel exporting," and it's a practice that the pharma industry has been trying to combat. But in the past, the problem has been reversed, with cheaper meds coming into the U.K., rather than leaking out of it.

- read the Reuters story