Britain’s drug shortages are caused by regulator’s failure | Drugs

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News that European countries are working together to safeguard drug supplies with a stockpile of 200 critical products comes at a time when the UK is facing the increasingly bleak prospect of more regular shortages (EU plan for medicine stockpile could worsen UK’s record shortages, 25 January).

Generic medicines – exact copies of original patented products – fulfil 80% of all prescriptions used by NHS patients. They also save the taxpayer £15bn annually via a competitive market, which has meant we have enjoyed the lowest medicine prices in Europe. However, a range of threats are undermining the resilience of the UK’s generic medicine supply chain, meaning shortages are becoming much more common.

Chief among these challenges is the worsening performance of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Not so long ago, it took around a year to deal with routine licensing changes. Now, due to budget cuts, it can take up to two-and-a-half years – meaning companies looking to add stock to the market when there are shortages are frustrated. Post-Brexit challenges, government pricing schemes and a failure to recognise the importance of generic medicines means international companies are viewing the UK as an increasingly difficult place to operate. The result will mean that access to medicines – routine to life-changing – will become more difficult.
Mark Samuels
Chief executive, British Generic Manufacturers Association

I know this might seem a stupid question but why are we not manufacturing our own drugs? Surely it would make economic sense for the NHS to have its own pharmaceuticals factory making all the generic drugs available for its own use.
Philip Clayton

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