Politics, UK Biotech

While controversy over Brexit reaches full boil, a pharma trade group sees the upside in a draft deal

British prime minister Theresa May’s draft divorce deal from the European Union has spurred hoots of derision from her growing ranks of critics in the UK, but the hard-fought and controversial agreement has met with cautious optimism from the trade association representing the biopharma and lifesciences industry in the United Kingdom.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), which represents biopharmaceutical companies in the UK that supply more than 80% of all branded medicines used by the National Health Service (NHS), said that although there was much work to be done, it welcomed the agreement of a transition period, which would mean its members can “continue to supply medicines to patients without delay or disruption come March 2019.”

Even though contingency planning has been put in place by pharmaceutical companies to make sure medicines are available in any Brexit outcome, this would be challenging in a “no deal” scenario, ABPI said in a statement on Thursday.

Steve Bates

ABPI has been working with the BioIndustry Association (BIA) — the trade association representing life sciences organisations in the UK — to advise parliament on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on public health, which they say would pose a serious challenge for pharmaceutical companies in supplying medicines to patients in both the UK and the EU. May herself has previously said that the threat of a no-deal Brexit was personal to her as she is a diabetic who is dependent on insulin made by a country elsewhere in the European Union.

BIA chief Steve Bates also welcomed the deal, with cautious optimism. “There remains a long way to go for certainty on Brexit for life sciences businesses but this is a key step on that journey.”

Nathalie Moll

Meanwhile, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), which represents the pharmaceutical industry operating in Europe, expressed considerable concern that the political declaration outlining the future relationship between the UK and the EU – which accompanied the draft agreement – did not directly address the issue of health. The declaration’s “failure to contain an explicit reference to the importance of securing long-term, extensive cooperation around the regulation of medicines is not in the best interest of patients,” said EFPIA Director General Nathalie Moll.

An embattled May vowed to keep fighting to push the deal through on Thursday evening after combating members of her own party in addition to opposition MPs earlier in the day, as well as wrangling with a string of cabinet departures and calls for a no-confidence motion.

The deal, which still needs to be voted on by parliament, is by no means a certainty. Having attracted a clamor of criticism by critics on all sides of the aisle, it is expected to be thwarted by parliament, at which point all bets are off. Failure to get the deal through could culminate in a variety of ways including a second referendum, an extension of the negotiating period, the passage of a no-deal Brexit or even a a national election.


Image: Theresa May. AP IMAGES


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