Government must work with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that a buffer stock is being replenished to help with any further wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Parliamentary International Trade Committee has said in its report.

‘Buffer stock’ of medicines typically does not stretch beyond six months’ supply. The Covid-19 pandemic has seen the pharmaceutical sector affected by significant and distinctive shocks to both supply and demand, compounded by trade policy interventions in some countries that have impeded trade.

“Our evidence indicates, though, that UK supply chains for medicines have thus far proved to be resilient, partly due to actions taken by the UK Government,” the committee has noted.

The parliamentary committee has also asked the government to make some necessary adjustments with regard to intellectual property provisions to allow for compulsory licensing of therapeutic drugs or vaccines in respect of Covid-19.

“The UK Government should evaluate the case for putting in place such enabling measures in order to make these drugs and vaccines available as quickly, widely and cheaply as possible,” the committee highlighted in its report.

The committee has also heard that the UK’s medicine supplies have not been maintained at adequate levels.

Dr Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), told the committee that the supply chain for prescription-only medicines had “held up in an extraordinary way over the last few months, given the circumstances”.

“The particular challenge that existed in respect of a small number of intensive-care medicines was being addressed by the industry “scouring the earth” to find supplies, while also increasing production as far as possible.”

He further noted that, of around 12,000 prescription-only medicines used by the NHS, only one class had been the subject of a supply disruption notice issued by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The committee was informed that the impact of the pandemic on medical supplies including equipment and consumables was similar to that in respect of pharmaceuticals, with major shocks to both supply and demand.

Several categories of such supplies are critical in dealing with the pandemic, not least Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The medical supplies sector has also faced an unprecedented combination of shocks to both supply and demand, compounded by some governments’ trade policy interventions; and UK supply chains in this sector have also thus far proved to be resilient, the committee has added.

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