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Drug Suppliers Not Ready for No-Deal Brexit, Says U.K. Watchdog

Jessica Shankleman

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Medicine suppliers are less prepared for a no-deal Brexit now than they were in the run-up to the original deadline for leaving the European Union, the government’s spending watchdog said.

By Sept. 20, pharmaceutical companies surveyed by the Department for Health had sufficient stockpiles for 72% of medicine product lines, the National Audit Office found in its report published Friday.

In contrast, 91% of medicine product lines had been stockpiled in mid-February, six weeks before a potential no-deal exit on March 29, the NAO said. More than half of the 12,300 prescription-only and over-the-counter medicines come from the EU, it said.

Boris Johnson has more than doubled spending on getting the U.K. ready for a no-deal Brexit since becoming prime minister in July. He’s said turbocharging preparations is needed to deliver on his pledge of leaving the EU with or without a deal by Oct. 31, both on a practical level and to prove to officials in Brussels that he is serious about walking away from talks when he’s negotiating.

A government official said in response to the NAO report that the Sept. 20 survey is already outdated and that companies now have 76% of medicine product lines stockpiled.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said stockpiles are increasing by the day. “Combined with other measures, including new transport routes coming online shortly, we can help ensure patients continue to receive the highest quality of care in the same way they do now,” she said in an emailed statement.

Meg Hiller, chair of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, said the findings of the NAO report were deeply concerning.

“The Department of Health and Social Care still doesn’t know whether all stockpiles are in place, it has no idea whether social care providers are ready, and it is still not certain whether all the freight capacity government needs will be in place on time,” she said, according to an emailed statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert Jameson

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