The National Pharmacy Association has welcomed Cabinet Office’s announcement of a phased process for implementing medicines regulation in Northern Ireland up to December 31.

The UK government and the European Commission reached an agreement during the fourth meeting of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Specialised Committee held virtually on November 5.

In a press statement issued by the Cabinet Office on Thursday (Nov 5), the government said the deal would allow businesses time prepare batch testing, importation and Falsified Medicines Directive requirements.

The NPA, which had been lobbying the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove for a delay, said the announcement that a phased approach has now been agreed was “common sense”.

In a letter sent to Gove on October 27, NPA chair Andrew Lane had written that the requirement for Northern Ireland to continue to comply with EU medicines regulations that would no longer apply in the UK could distort the medicines supply chain.

He had warned that the additional cost and complexity of getting medicines into Northern Ireland could result in medicines shortages and an increase in procurement costs. He had urged more time would be needed for planning and implementation.

Reacting to the latest announcement, Lane said on Monday (Nov 9): “This buys time for businesses to prepare in relation to batch testing, imports and the Falsified Medicines Directive. In the circumstances, it’s a common sense decision which we support. We believe our representations on behalf of NPA members in Northern Ireland have been on the mark, pragmatic and effective.”

Earlier in October, the UK Community Pharmacy Falsified Medicine Directive Working Group called on the government in Westminster to protect the supply of medicines into Northern Ireland following the end of the Brexit transition period.

The working group consists of the national organisations representing community pharmacy across the UK.

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