Preparing for Brexit: Update regarding supply of medicines

There is much uncertainty around Brexit currently and we have received some enquiries in recent weeks from patients concerned about their supply of medicines. 

Whether it is a no-deal Brexit or the agreement brokered by the prime minister, leaving the European Union promises to have a profound impact on patients and the wider NHS.


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Will we run out of medicines?

The government has asked firms to stockpile a six-week supply of drugs to mitigate any potential problems.  The government has said that the public should not need to stockpile drugs themselves and this could in fact make the situation worse.  Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that while a no-deal scenario would be "difficult", he was "confident that if everyone does everything they need to do, then we will have an unhindered supply of medicines".


I’m still concerned, what can I do to make sure I don’t run out of medicines?

If you are concerned about your medicines supply, we suggest that you speak with your GP.  For patients who are on a 28-day repeat supply, we would always recommend in any case that you have additional supply in case of unforeseen illness or an unforeseen event.

To arrange a reserve supply, you should make an appointment with your GP and request a one-off prescription for an extra two months’ (56 days) worth of your essential therapies, such as desmopressin, hydrocortisone, levothyroxine.  For historical reasons, growth hormone is usually offered as a three or six-month supply, as are HRT and contraceptives; it may be worth reminding the GP that there are already national guidelines advising an extended supply for some endocrine therapies.

The aim is to always have a two-month reserve in hand to see you through any unexpected periods, while you rotate your stock to use what is closest to its expiry date. You may need to remind your GP that your condition would deteriorate rapidly without your daily endocrine medications, and that these are essential for life.  Your endocrine consultant may be willing to write a letter to your GP endorsing this precautionary approach, if the practice manager is not willing to make an exception to the standard practice policy on grounds of individual patient need. (National guidelines from the Department of Health do require the GP to take individual patient need into account in determining repeat prescription length and following local CCG policy on repeat prescription length would not be regarded as a defence, should the patient come to harm as a consequence of restricted supply; however, many practice managers are not aware of this).


With thanks to Katherine White for contributing to this article.