PARIS / ZURICH / LONDON (Reuters) – Sanofi and Novartis said Wednesday they were planning to increase drug stocks in the UK if Britain fails without a deal from the European Union.
FILE PHOTO: The Sanofi logo in front of the entrance of the headquarters of the French pharmaceutical company in Paris, October 30, 201
At the same time the European Medicines Agency, which controls the drug safety over the Block, warned of more staff losses than expected, and cut some activity as he had to move from London to Amsterdam because of Brexit.
The European equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration now expects to lose around 30 percent of its workforce by March 2019.
The announcements show that the heavily regulated pharmaceutical sector is feeling the impact of emerging Britons leaving the EU.
Sanofi's and Novartis' moves follow similar AstraZeneca measures that last month said they would increase inventories of drugs that could be affected by Brexit by about 20 percent.
Roche, the world's largest manufacturer of cancer medicines, also said it is taking "reasonable steps" to review its inventories to protect patient care.
Britain's largest drug maker, GlaxoSmithKline, said last week that it would take steps to ensure the delivery of its medicines and vaccines before the UK leaves the EU, without elaborating on details.
The supply of thousands of medicines is threatened with disruption if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement and is forced to make duplicate product tests and licensing agreements to ensure that its medicines remain on the market.
There are more than 2,600 medicines in the UK and 45 million patient packs shipped every month from the UK to other European countries, with another 37 million going in the opposite direction, according to industry figures.
Leading pharmaceutical manufacturers have long expressed concern over Brexit and the need for the pharmaceutical sector to remain in the European regulatory system.
British lawmakers have also called for an agreement that will allow the country to continue to participate in the European drug regulatory framework, but it remains unclear how this will affect the broader EU negotiations.
Sanofi said it was confident that its storage facilities would give British patients access to its treatments after Britain left the EU, whether or not there was an agreement on its future relations with the EU.
"The uncertainty in the Brexit negotiations means that Sanofi has always planned a no-deal scenario," said a spokesman for the French pharmaceutical company by e-mail.
"We have provisioned for additional storage capacity to store our products in the UK and increase resources in the UK to prepare for any changes in customs or regulatory processes."
Novartis said inventories are expected to increase in the UK through its Novartis portfolio of medicines and Sandoz, the generics division of the Swiss company.
"We have informed officials and ministers about our preparedness plans and our status, including plans to increase our UK inventory," said Novartis.
The European Medicines Agency has warned drug manufacturers that they must be prepared for a possible hard Brexit in 2019. It has also expressed "serious concerns" regarding the availability of about 108 medicines produced exclusively in the United Kingdom.
Reporting by Matthias Blamont, Michael Shields and Ben Hirschler; Editing by Richard Lough, Jane Merriman and Kirsten Donovan