Mike Thompson, CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, addressing MPs on Tuesday © Parliamentlive.tv
Mike Thompson, CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, addressing MPs on Tuesday © Parliamentlive.tv

No-deal medicine cold storage concern

25 October 2018

The UK does not have enough cold-chain warehouses to guarantee the supply of medicines such as insulin in the case of a no-deal Brexit, MPs have been told.

Speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee this week, Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the government needed to act now to make sure enough storage was in place.

“We know that there is not enough cold-chain warehousing in the UK today to cover the stockpiling we have been asked to build. So there is a request into government to support the building of additional cold-chain supply,” he said.

“We are saying to government you need to press the button now. Normally this would take longer than six months to build and get it signed off. Some of this can be truncated, but we very much believe we are up against the deadline now.”

It could take up to a year to build new cold-chain warehouses, he added.

Martin Sawer, executive director of the Healthcare Distributors Association, told the committee industry was concerned that a no-deal could have “catastrophic” consequences for drug supply.

“We’re not suggesting anyone needs to stockpile outside of the supply chain yet. But come January that might be a different picture.

“As businesses in the supply chain, together with the government and the NHS, we have to communicate what needs to be done. We are – we believe – going to be in a difficult situation if there is not a deal by Christmas.”

However, in the same evidence session, health secretary Matt Hancock disputed the concerns. He said preparations were going to plan to make sure there was enough cold-chain storage.

“I don’t accept the premise that it takes a year to put up refrigerated sheds, not least because we can use storage that is already existing. That is part of our tendering,” he said.

“It may be the case that someone has an example that it has taken a year, but you can do it quicker.”

In a separate conversation earlier this week, the chief executive of NHS Supply Chain told SM warehousing and logistics was a strength of the health service that would help it face the challenges of stockpiling for a no-deal. 

“One of the advantages of having the NHS Supply Chain is the infrastructure that comes with it,” said Jin Sahota. “We have seven distribution centres across the nation... We are used to having stocks and managing stocks. That’s what we do.”

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