UK restricts exports on some drugs to reduce shortages

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government on Thursday restricted the export of 24 drugs as part of efforts to reduce shortages of some medicines, including hormone replacement therapy drugs, Hepatitis B vaccines and adrenaline pens.

The restrictions announced will prevent wholesalers from taking advantage of short supplies and currency fluctuations to profit from selling medicines meant for U.K. patients to other countries for a higher price. Although not directly linked to Brexit _ Britain’s impending departure from the European Union _ the decision is important because it sets a precedent on addressing supply questions as the country moves closer to its Oct. 31 departure from the bloc.

"The new measures we're introducing today will help us ensure patients get the medicines they need and the high-quality care they deserve,’’ said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “Helping the (National Health Service) is a priority for this government, and people should be fully reassured that we will always act to ensure that there is an adequate supply of the medicine you need."

Dr. Rick Greville of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said the decision is a precaution.

"It means that these stockpiles of medicines, which companies have built over previous months, are better protected and available for use only by the NHS patients for which they were intended,’’ he said.

But the European Association of Euro-Pharmaceutical Companies, which represents 120 companies that distribute drugs in Europe, said Britain had failed to be transparent about the criteria it used to make its decision.

“While we do not want worsen or prolong any shortages, and therefore accept that temporary, transparent and objective restrictions might apply, we object to the complete failure on the U.K. government to be transparent on their decision,” says Kasper Ernest, Secretary-General of EAEPC.

He said shortages of medicines have increased all over Europe due to the “complete failure from the manufacturing industry to deliver enough medicines to European patients.’’

“We are tired of being the scapegoat of big pharma when they fail or chose not to deliver for commercial reasons,’’ he said. “It’s time for the EU and member states to act.”