No deal Brexit is said to be responsible for the hike in prices of drugs, whereas the health secretary charters a plane to airlift urgent medication to the UK.
Pharmacies warned that drugs prices are soaring, amid attempts to build up a stockpile ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU.
They highlighted spiralling prices for a number of drugs, some of which have seen prices hiked six-fold in a matter of months, as the industry prepares for the growing risk of a no-deal Brexit.
They include medication for psychosis, which has seen a rise from 62 pence a pack to £3.16 in just six months, and painkillers, have gone from £2.08 to £13.70 since March.
Stunningly irresponsible stuff. Outrageous risk for NHS patients 😔 pic.twitter.com/N2NPntya8X
— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) November 7, 2018
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has warned of a surge in the number of drugs which were now being reimbursed at special rates, above the standard national tariff, amid growing shortages.
In a letter to Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the Commons health committee, the chief executive of the committee, raised particular concern about contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.
Warning of rising numbers of generic drugs which are no longer available at standard prices, Simon Dukes said stockpiling, Brexit planning and attempts to make contingency plans were among the factors which could be causing the surge.
The government has told manufacturers of both branded and generic drugs to ensure that six weeks’ worth of supplies have been built up to ensure continuity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
But Mr Dukes said: “there are question marks about whether this will be enough to provide continuity of supply to patients”.
It comes as Matt Hancock announced that he has charterered a dedicated NHS aeroplane to ferry short-life treatments like isotopes for cancer treatment in case of a chaotic exit from the EU.
Under the contract, the NHS would have access to two flights bringing medical supplies from the Netherlands, Belgium and France to either Birmingham or Coventry airport.
Ironically it would fly out of Maastricht, the Dutch city associated with the early 1990s treaty that brought closer ties with Europe.
Earlier this week Mr Hancock said that no-deal planning had made him “the largest buyer of fridges in the world”, in order to provide short-term refrigeration of key drugs and other products.
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, which represents major pharmacies, said: “There is a lot of concern from across the sector about the impact of shortages. If wholesalers, pharmacists or patients start to stockpile that does jeopardise the supply, which does push prices up.”
And he said any weakening of the pound could make the UK a less attractive market for drugs, with other countries posing a more profitable option for traders.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We have not seen any evidence of price rises in generic medicines linked to Brexit preparations – the UK overall has some of the lowest generic prices in Europe. “No company should exploit the NHS and if there is evidence of any wrongdoing we will refer them to the Competition and Markets Authority for further investigation.
“Our number one priority is to ensure patients continue to have access to medicines as we exit the EU and we are working with all sectors of the supply chain to ensure this happens.”