Pharmacy sector cautiously welcomes post-Brexit NI deal

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Pharmacy sector cautiously welcomes post-Brexit NI deal

By Neil Trainis

The National Pharmacy Association has cautiously welcomed the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland struck yesterday between the UK and European Union, insisting that as far as medicines supply is concerned, the “devil may yet be in the detail.”

A long-running disagreement between the two sides over the impact of the Northern Ireland protocol appears to have ended with the introduction of the Windsor Framework which is designed to overcome trade barriers in the country. The deal could yet be hindered by Tory Brexiteers as well as the Democratic Unionist Party who today said they will not be rushed into coming to a “collective decision” on the Framework.

Nonetheless, the agreement has reduced long-standing anxieties within the UK pharmacy and pharmaceutical sectors about the supply of medicines to community pharmacies in Northern Ireland. Under the Framework, medicines approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will automatically be available in every pharmacy and hospital in the country.

The Framework also creates green and red lane trade routes, the former removing customs bureaucracy by reducing paperwork and checks for goods coming into Northern Ireland, the latter maintaining checks for products destined for the EU.

“While the devil may yet be in the detail, the Windsor Framework would appear to be good news for pharmacies in Northern Ireland,” said Anne McAlister, the NPA’s Northern Ireland manager.

“It seems to address the main concerns we have expressed about medicines supplies to NI, but we want to examine the small print to ensure the new arrangements meet the needs of our members and the patients they serve. Given the complexities of political life in Northern Ireland, we are not celebrating a done deal just yet, however we are cautiously optimistic about the progress made.”

The Healthcare Distribution Association, which represents pharmaceutical wholesalers, welcomed the agreement by suggesting it had “put patients first” and “will allow medicines to flow seamlessly from Great Britain to Northern Ireland once again.”

Insisting “common sense has prevailed,” the HDA said it “always consistently argued for the need for no divergence in medicines allowed to be supplied to NI, when compared to the rest of the UK.”

The HDA also said it has consistently pushed for a medicines licence for the entire UK including Northern Ireland, removal of Falsified Medicines Directive in the country and the withdrawal of customs declaration requirements when moving medicines from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland.

The agreement was also welcomed by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain who said the views and concerns of the OTC sector and its customers had been taken into account “so the supply of vital medicines to Northern Ireland and the UK is not interrupted or threatened.”

However, the PAGB chief executive Michelle Riddalls said: “Work still needs to be done to make sure this agreement is implemented in the right way and that the knowledge and expertise of industry is made use of as we move into implementation.

“PAGB will continue to do our best to go on making sure that this happens and the long-term interests of the sector and our consumers are protected.”



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