A community pharmacy Brexit forum has been set up by the PSNC which will see the profession’s representative bodies and medicines supply chain discuss issues around the channelling of medicines to pharmacies in the UK after it leaves the European Union in March next year.

The forum, pharmacy’s negotiator said, “will help to identify relevant issues and seek appropriate clarification as required in the approach to the Brexit deadline” as well as communicate with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to ensure patients are able to access a continuous supply of medicines from community pharmacies.

There has been grave concern that Brexit could precipitate a major shortage of medicines in the UK to add to the shortages that have already blighted community pharmacies and jeopardised patients’ health in recent years.

Earlier this year Richard Freudenberg, the chief executive of the European Association of Euro-Pharmaceutical Companies (EAEPC), warned a significant number of drugs may no longer be available to patients in Britain from midnight on March 29 next year unless an impasse between the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) was brought to an end.

It was feared that more than 400 drug molecules centrally approved in Europe would no longer be available for distribution to patients in the UK post-Brexit, with all medicines manufactured in the UK after March 29, 2019 regarded as imports from a ‘third country.’

Freudenberg said the MHRA, who he called on to register products to allow patients in the UK to continue accessing them, was passing responsibility for avoiding a potentially devastating shortage to the EMA.

However, a vote in the House of Commons last week narrowly went in favour of the UK’s continued participation in the EMA, an issue the PSNC said will be of importance to the forum.

The National Pharmacy Association, Company Chemists’ Association, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Pharmacists’ Defence Association, Dispensing Doctors Association and Healthcare Distribution Association have indicated they will join the forum. The PSNC said it is open to accepting other representative organisations.

“There have also been recent reports in the national press that the NHS is considering stockpiling medicine supplies to protect against the possibility of a no-deal Brexit,” the PSNC said.

“The forum will want to ensure that community pharmacies have appropriate access to all sources of medicines so they can continue to fulfil prescriptions of vital medicines for their patients.”