The British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) has put pharmacies in Northern Ireland on alert amid the prospect of Belfast being pulled from EU supply chains. It comes as huge divisions remain over the implementation of the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol – a mechanism created to protect the Good Friday Agreement but has effectively placed a trade border down the Irish Sea.
The Protocol also ensures Belfast is still in the EU’s pharmaceutical regulatory system, unlike the rest of the UK.
The UK Government has this week called for the deal to be renegotiated – something that has since been knocked back by Brussels.
Northern Ireland receives most of its medical supplies from the UK and the movement is currency covered by a ‘grace period’ due to expire in January 2022.
However, the UK Government has expressed scepticism about the EU’s post-grace period plan and says medicines should be entirely removed from the Protocol.
Mark Samuels, Chief Executive of the BGMA, has called on both sides to provide more certainty to the industry.
He said: “After months of asking for a stable agreement between the Government and EU, our companies have been forced to put on notice over 2,000 medicines for withdrawal from Northern Ireland.
“These steps have been taken with the utmost reluctance but our members are being forced into an impossible position.
“We need all parties to set aside the politics of Brexit and put patients first.”
Stormont’s Department of Health says it is doing “everything possible” to ensure medical supplies are maintained.
Health officials in Northern Ireland continue to work closely with the UK Department of Health to “assess the impact of each discontinuation on a case by case basis”.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “These include communicating with the primary and secondary healthcare settings detailing any potential shortages or issues with the supply chain and the best alternative products”.
He added there is no immediate risk to the public.
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