Wrong for patients to be treated like chess pieces in political Protocol game - Empey

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Wrong for patients to be treated like chess pieces in political Protocol game - Empey

The House of Lords European sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland has today released a letter it has sent to the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly MP on the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland.

Lord Empey, who is a member of the sub-Committee said:


“The Committee decided to do follow up scrutiny of the provision of medicines to see how things were going after the EU Commission had changed EU legislation to make it easier for some EU members to access medicines which traditionally had come from the UK.


“The evidence we received was clear that this had helped the situation. There is, however, a public impression that the medicines issue has been resolved and the evidence we received from industry stakeholders contradicts this view, and made clear that this is far from the case.


“We were first alerted to problems by former Health Minister Robin Swann, when he wrote to the Committee last year pointing out what his Department described as outstanding matters. This was strongly upheld by the evidence we received. The impact so far has fallen on the shoulders of the wholesale suppliers but it has not yet manifested itself to patients yet. The wholesalers made clear that the supply of medicines to NI was 'logistically complex, costly and inefficient’.


“The issues are also part of a wider impact of Brexit on supply chains, product testing and global supply chains. We were told that the Protocol offered 'no benefits compared to the situation before UK withdrawal from the EU’.


“We were advised that neither a dual regulatory regime or even removing medicines altogether from the scope of the Protocol was problem free.


“A mutual Recognition Agreement was supported by industry and we are asking James Cleverly if he is pursuing this with the Commission.


“Our witnesses were uncomfortable with unilateral action favouring agreement with the EU as the way forward.


“But the message from all of this is that the issue of medicines is far from fixed and that it would be wrong for patients to be caught in the crossfire and treated like chess pieces in a much bigger political game.


“This short piece of scrutiny illustrates the complexities arising from our departure from the EU and the failure to properly prepare and negotiate the UK's departure. Work on this will need to be ongoing until long term solutions are found.”