A group representing the HSE's largest suppliers of medicines has said the Government should establish a Medicines Contingency Stakeholder Group amid concerns there could be medicines shortages both now and in a post-Brexit scenario.
The demand from Medicines for Ireland came as Tánaiste Simon Coveney said consumers could be confident there will not be any shortages of drugs or specialised foodstuffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
He was responding to concerns expressed by senior health officials about post Brexit access to 45 key drugs, as well as foodstuffs for people with specialised diets and breast milk for premature infants.
The only breast milk bank supplying neonatal units in the north and the Republic is in the South West Acute Hospital in Co Fermanagh.
Mr Coveney told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that Health Minister Simon Harris will bring a detailed memo to Cabinet this week about the stable supply of medicines.
“It gives me confidence that we can manage that. A lot of planning is going on with suppliers,” he said adding there could be changes to supply routes and that the authorisation process with regards to medicines will have to move to outside the UK.
However, Medicines for Ireland which represents the biggest suppliers of medicines to the HSE, providing more than 60% of all medicines here said there had been a lack of consistent and meaningful engagement with the Department of Health and HSE in relation to ongoing shortages and planning for a no-deal Brexit.
It called for the immediate establishment of a Medicines Contingency Stakeholder Group, comprising Department/Government, relevant State Agencies such as HSE and HPRA, healthcare and pharma industry representatives.
“Medicines suppliers need to be on the inside, working with Department of Health and HSE in real time to collaborate together on medicines supplies as a whole, and to quickly respond to medicines shortages if they arise. In a Brexit scenario, this level of coordination is all the more important," said its chairman Owen McKeon.
Meanwhile, Mr Coveney said there will also be a memo to Cabinet this week from the Department of Transport on shipping availability in the event of a no deal Brexit. Shipping capacity might move away from using the UK as a land bridge.
“I am confident that we will have the physical infrastructure and staff in place to fulfil obligations,” he said though he acknowledged that there is a human resources challenge, but that it has been broken down between three government departments.