What is already in place?
Even before any no-deal Brexit, medicines shortages sometimes happen. For instance, batches of medicines may fail their quality control meaning that production has to be re-run; there may be shortages of specific chemicals used to produce drugs; factories may be closed down by safety concerns or industrial action, or transport and logistics issues may make it difficult to transport medicines.
Generic, or off-patent, drugs can be shielded from some of these influences as multiple manufacturers can produce them, however, shortages of generic drugs still occur.
A number of systems are already in place to deal with medicines shortages:
- DHSC Medicines Shortages Team
There is a team at the Department of Health and Social Care that is responsible for dealing with medicines shortages. It works with the manufacturer(s) to understand the cause of any shortages, what might help, and when the problem should be resolved. Prostate Cancer UK has spoken to this team about their plans and will work with them in the event of any medicines shortages post-Brexit.
- The PSNC Concessionary Prices Scheme
The UK has a system to stop price fluctuations from impacting patients’ access to these treatments, called the concessionary prices scheme. This system is designed as a short-term measure until prices return to normal.
- Serious Shortages Protocol
The Government has brought forward legislation to create a serious shortages protocol. This would allow pharmacists to prescribe different treatments in the event of medicines shortages. Alternative treatments would be recommended by clinical experts and explained to pharmacists. This protocol is unlikely to be used unless there are serious and sustained shortages of treatment, along with an alternative treatment that can safely and easily act as a substitute. We would recommend men speak to their doctor about any changes in treatment.