Brexit update – Supply of medicines


Epilepsy Scotland, along with several other charities, met with the Scottish Government’s Principal Pharmaceutical Officer and Head of Medicines Policy earlier this year. This was to discuss the continued supply of medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The advice given was that:

  • all pharmaceutical suppliers to stockpile at least 6 weeks’ worth of medications. However, many companies have stockpiled significantly more than this.
  • the Scottish Government has been working closely with the UK government and pharmaceutical companies. This is so procedures are in place to prioritise medications getting into Scotland in the event of no deal.
  • A Medicines Shortage Response Group (MRSG) introduced. They will use specialist clinical expertise to act upon any serious shortages.


Serious Shortage Protocols

Under new legislation, Serious Shortage Protocols will be implemented in the event of significant shortages. The agreed protocols will see a brand of medication swapped out by a pharmacist for another, if there is a shortage.

However, the Scottish Government has assured us that epilepsy will be exempted from any Serious Shortages Protocols.Brexit

Alison Strath, the Principle Pharmaceutical Officer to the Scottish Government said, “These serious shortage protocols will not be suitable for all medicines and patients, including medicines for epilepsy.

“In these cases, patients will always be referred back to the prescriber for any decision about their treatment.”

Protocols may allow pharmacists to provide a smaller quantity of an epilepsy medicine. For example, in order to manage demand, they could dispense a supply of 28 tablets instead of 56 to allow time to secure additional stock.

However, they will not use protocols to swap to a generic equivalent. Or to change from one type of drug to another.

If any significant shortages of epilepsy drugs do develop, the Scottish Government will where necessary:

  • work with suppliers to quickly secure stocks from elsewhere in the UK or other countries
  • air-freight stocks into the country if required


Yellow Hammer Report

We believe the Scottish Government has been working hard to mitigate and prepare for this situation.

They have openly engaged with us about their plans. However, we were concerned at the content of the UK government’s Yellow Hammer report.

Especially, indicating the potential severity and length of impact on medicines supplies.

We remain dismayed at Westminster’s lack of transparency and accountability over planning to reduce risk to people such as those with epilepsy in the event of a no deal Brexit.

We have recently joined forces with other UK epilepsy charities and leading clinicians to lobby the UK government about its plans and to communicate the concerns of people with epilepsy and those who care for them.

The Epilepsy Society have a useful web page detailing what Brexit preparations are being made by each of the pharmaceutical companies which make epilepsy drugs.

We would always stress not to stockpile medications as this can create and increase the severity of shortages.