• The UK government writes to pharmaceutical firms urging them to stockpile medicine for next year.
  • The health department advises firms to stockpile six weeks' worth of supplies for the end of the Brexit transition period.
  • The letter comes amid concern that the combined strain of the coronavirus and leaving the EU's single market and customs union will lead to delays at the border.
  • The pharmaceutical industry industry earlier this year warned that Covid-19 had "used up entirely" some supplies.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Boris Johnson's government has written to the UK pharmaceutical industry urging it to stockpile six weeks' worth of medicine supplies to make sure firms do not run out after the Brexit transition period comes to an end.

In a letter to ministers, reported by The Independent newspaper, the UK department of health and social care's Steve Oldfield advises firms to stockpile over a months' worth of medicine to provide a "buffer against some disruption."

The letter comes amid fears that new checks at Britain's borders with the European Union from January will lead to delays in medicine reaching the UK from Europe. As of January, the UK will no longer be in the EU's single market and customs union, resulting in new regulatory and customs checks on a range of goods crossing the channel.

An industry memo to the UK government leaked in June warned that the nation's medicine supplies were precarious heading into 2021, as some stockpiles had been "used up entirely" in the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The memo, prepared for ministers in May, warned there would "less or zero product available in the market to allow for stockpiling a broad range of products" than there was during preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit last year.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in June told Business Insider he was "absolutely confident" that there would not be a shortage of medicine supplies due to the combined strain of Covid-19 and the end of the Brexit transition period.

However, in its letter to the industry, the government says that firms should aim to stockpile "to a target level of six weeks' total stock on UK soil" to avoid medicines running out.

"To build upon past work and ensure a coordinated approach, we will be asking suppliers to confirm their contingency plans for the end of the [transition period], and in particular the balance between stock-holding in the UK, rerouting away from the short straits and readiness for new customs and border arrangements," the letter says.

"We recognise that global supply chains are under significant pressure, exacerbated by recent events with Covid-19.

"However, we encourage companies to make stockpiling a key part of contingency plans, and ask industry, where possible, to stockpile to a target level of six weeks' total stock on UK soil.

"DHSC stands ready to support companies with their plans if required and understands that a flexible approach to preparedness may be required that considers a mixture of stockpiling and rerouting plans as necessary."

The UK government hopes to mitigate some of the disruption brought about by leaving the EU's single market and customs union by negotiating a new free trade deal with the EU in time for January 2021.

However, the UK and EU are struggling to make a breakthrough in talks, with both sides accelerating preparations for there being no agreement in place by the start of next year.

Commenting on the letter, member of Parliament Layla Moran, who is running to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats, told Business Insider: "It is chilling to hear that as the country braces itself for a second wave of coronavirus later this year, we also risk facing shortages of vital medical supplies due to a no deal Brexit.

"The government must not put its Brexit ideology ahead of people's lives.

"Ministers should carry out an urgent impact assessment of how No Deal would affect the country's ability to cope with a second wave. The public and businesses cannot be kept in the dark any longer."

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