Insulin Supply Concerns in the Event of a No-Deal Brexit

Peter Russell

February 14, 2019

Diabetes specialists have called on the Government to clarify its plans to ensure continued availability of insulin and other medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, and Diabetes UK, said without knowing what plans were in place they were unable to say whether people reliant on insulin would be safe if the UK left the EU without agreement.

In a joint statement, Karen Addington, UK chief executive of JDRF, and Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "With just a matter of weeks between now and 29th March and, despite reaching out directly to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in December, we still have not seen the concrete detail needed to reassure us – or people with diabetes – that the UK Government's plans are robust enough to guarantee no impact on insulin and medicine supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"We are increasingly hearing from worried people who do not feel reassured by existing published guidance on this issue. With the information available to date, we feel unable to fully alleviate their concerns."

Interruption of Supplies 'Would be Incredibly Dangerous'

Diabetes UK wrote to Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, in December seeking clarification. Last week, a follow-up request was made to health minister Stephen Hammond who has responsibility within the department for EU exit.

However, both diabetes charities said responses received had not provided the details they sought.

In the joint statement, they said: "We want to reassure people but – based on the information currently available – we cannot say with confidence that people will be able to get the insulin and other medical supplies they need in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"Insulin is a life-saving necessity for hundreds of thousands of people with diabetes, and any delay or interruption to access would be incredibly dangerous.

"The UK Government must – with all urgency – produce the detail needed to reassure the public that it, and all relevant organisations involved in the smooth supply of insulin into the UK, have robust systems and agreements in place to ensure this supply in the event of a no-deal Brexit."

A spokesperson for the DHSC said: "All major suppliers of insulin have confirmed to the Department that they have increased their buffer stocks to hold 16 weeks total supply before 29th March – far above the additional 6 weeks' supply which Government has asked industry to stock.

Government Confidence

"The Government has been working closely with companies to ensure the supply of medicines can continue uninterrupted in the event of a no-deal EU exit, including building stockpiles, providing additional warehousing space, and buying freight capacity on alternative ferry routes. We are confident that, if everyone does what they should do, the supply of medicines will be uninterrupted in the event of a no-deal.

"The response from industry has been hugely positive. The vast majority of companies have confirmed stockpiling plans are in place and medicines continue to arrive to deliver on them."

Supplies of analogue and synthetic human insulin are currently imported into the UK from three main suppliers: Novo Nordisk, Lilly, and Sanofi.

In December, the DHSC warned of a "worst case scenario" in the event of a no-deal Brexit in which reduced access and delays at the ports of Dover and Folkestone could last up to 6 months.

The Government said it was planning to prioritise imports of medicines and medical products through alternative ports.

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