Germany warns no-deal Brexit could mean medical shortages | News | DW | 28.03.2019
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Germany warns no-deal Brexit could mean medical shortages

Blood products in particular could be endangered in the event of the UK making a disorderly exit from the EU, the German health minister has warned. Germany could experience shortfalls as early as April.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn told the EU that "tens of thousands" of medical items could become unavailable should Britain leave the bloc without a deal, the German newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Thursday.

While a disorderly Brexit could lead to licensing problems with numerous products, there is particular concern about the possibility of medical shortages in both the European Union and a post-Brexit United Kingdom.

Spahn reportedly made the following points:

  • Cardiac pacemakers, medical implants, and blood sampling products are among the items that could become unavailable.
  • The EU would have trouble to quickly find specialists capable of certifying products currently validated by UK experts on behalf of the whole bloc.
  • Brussels and EU member states should agree a common "crisis plan" with "practical procedures" to deal with a possible no-deal Brexit.
  • There should be a year-long transitional arrangement for UK-certified items to be distributed in the EU.
  • Plans for EU entities to take over certification need to be accelerated.

The minister made his warning clear:

"In the event of a disorderly Brexit, it is reasonable to assume that tens and thousands of medical products would lose their formal market access in the EU-27, and would therefore no longer be available on the European market," Spahn said.

Shortages of in-vitro diagnostic products — used, for example, to test blood donations for pathogens such as HIV — were of particular concern to the minister. "I fear that the provision of blood products to patients in Germany could be at risk from the middle of April 2019," Spahn said.

Watch video 04:17

Medicine shortages loom in Britain

Why is this even a problem? If the UK parliament is unable to agree on a deal with the EU by April 12, the country would have to either leave with an agreement or ask EU leaders for another much longer delay. Britain would then be considered a third country, and its certification experts would no longer be considered eligible to evaluate products.

Read more: Worried about Brexit, Brits stockpile food, supplies

Firms that produce medical goods in the UK, and those exporting to Britain from other parts of Europe, would face greater bureacracy and costs. This could also potentially disrupt supply chains. 

Infografik Brexit next steps EN

A two-way trade: The highly-regulated medical sector is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to a disorderly Brexit.

Some 45 million individual packages of drugs are exported each month from the UK to the EU, with around 37 million traveling in the opposite direction.

Watch video 04:13

Brexit: A business community divided

London makes preparations: Fears that the UK may face drug shortages have seen the British government stockpiling large amounts of pharmaceutical products. About three-quarters of the medicines used by Britain’s state-run National Health Service arrive in Britain from the EU.

The UK government has asked drug firms to stockpile six weeks supply of an estimated 7,000 different lines of prescription or over-the-counter drugs that come from Europe.

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