U.K., EU Bodies Warn of Drug Delays Ahead of Final Brexit Talks

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U.K. and European Union pharmaceutical groups called on politicians to prioritize medicines in last-ditch Brexit trade talks this week, as the industry grapples with political and regulatory uncertainty and pressure from the pandemic.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations asked the British government and European Commission to urgently negotiate a mutual recognition agreement to avoid delays of as much as six weeks for medicines.

They’re also seeking a one-year phase-in period for the protocol governing Northern Ireland. Without the delay, medicine supplies to the region could be put on hold, according to the groups.

The U.K. and EU will begin the final scheduled week of Brexit talks Tuesday in an attempt to reach an agreement before Oct. 15 -- an EU summit meeting and self-imposed deadline by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for striking a deal.

The pharmaceutical industry has long been calling for clarity on the future relationship and an agreement to accept each other’s tests and inspections of medical products to avoid delays and duplications. Mutual recognition has taken on even greater importance in light of the Covid-19 pandemic as countries look to avoid unnecessary curbs to the supply of vaccines and therapeutics for the disease.

Negotiators have 15 weeks until the end of the Brexit transition period, after which the U.K. and EU will revert to quotas and tariffs for products if no deal is reached. Northern Ireland will be governed by EU rules that will be enforced by U.K. regulators, but a lack of clarity on how this will work could mean medicines are unable to be dispensed legally in the region from next year, according to the groups.

The U.K. exports about 45 million packs of medicines to the EU and imports 37 million from the bloc every month.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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