Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (613)

Catherine Martin

Question:

613. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Health his plans to prevent medicine shortages in the event of a hard Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44924/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As part of the whole-of-government response to Brexit, the Department of Health has established dedicated structures to manage the approach to preparing for the UK’s exit from the EU. The Department, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE), with the full support of stakeholders, are implementing a comprehensive and coordinated set of preparations to ensure continuity of health services and continued supply of medicines and medical devices in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Chapter 24 of the Government’s Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update, published in July 2019, details work which has been undertaken in relation to the supply of medicines and medical devices. https://www.dfa.ie/brexit/getting-ireland-brexit-ready/governmentcontingencyactionplan/.

Ireland is unlikely to face general medicine shortages in the period immediately after the UK's exit from the European Union. Any emerging supply issues will, in the first instance, be dealt with from existing supplies held within the domestic distribution chain, which already has additional stocks of medicines routinely built into it.

There is no need for hospitals, pharmacists or patients to order extra quantities of medicines, or for doctors to issue additional prescriptions, as doing so could disrupt existing stock levels and hamper the supply of medicines for other patients. Patients should continue to fill their prescriptions and take their medications as they normally would.

The Department, the HSE and the HPRA have facilitated ongoing engagements with manufacturers and suppliers of medicines and medical devices, to ensure that they are Brexit-ready, to discuss any potential issues that could affect supply to Ireland and to identify solutions to maintain supply to the market.

Unfortunately, medicine shortages are a feature of modern health systems, but Ireland has a multi-stakeholder system in place to prevent and manage shortages when they occur. The health system is therefore well placed to anticipate and respond to any additional shortages, should they arise because of Brexit. Any shortages currently affecting the Irish market are not directly attributable to Brexit.

Significant work has been undertaken to mitigate potential vulnerabilities and risks and to provide a high level of assurance around continuity of care and treatment for patients in Ireland. Work on this will continue, including ongoing monitoring of supplies in Ireland and engagement with industry to adapt supply chains, where necessary, to minimise any potential disruption.