The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

Medicine shortage caused by international issues, Brexit bureaucracy

Sabrina Zammit Monday, 27 June 2022, 07:20 Last update: about 3 months ago

Delays caused by added bureaucracy following Brexit and other international situations such as the war in Ukraine are leading to shortage of medicines, with pharmacies scrambling to offer replacements so as not to keep their clients without the items they need.

Over the past days several customers approached The Malta Independent on Sunday to complain that they are finding it harder to buy medicines which they take on a regular basis.

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This is pushing them to either having to visit three or four pharmacies to find what they want or else make do with similar medicines, offered by pharmacists, instead of the ones they usually take.

Although pharmacists assure their clients that the products they are being given have the same function, some clients however prefer to risk not buying the “alternative” medicine in the hope that the one they are accustomed to is imported in time. However, when they run out of it, they have no other option but to purchase the alternative.

Asked about this, the Chamber of Pharmacists’ president Maryanne Sant Fournier said that among other reasons some medicines go out of stock because of marketing decisions by parent pharma companies and international logistical reasons affecting importation as a result of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Brexit also has its effects on the situation, with pharmacists telling The Malta Independent on Sunday that it has become harder to get things over from the UK. “There is certainly a delay,” one pharmacist said. “Items that used to be imported regularly are now taking much longer to arrive. The paperwork involved has increased tremendously and this inevitably results in delays.”

Many times, this leads to medicines, particularly those usually imported from the UK, being out of stock.

“Certain medicinal products, usually sourced from the UK pre-Brexit, may have been affected; though pharmacists may find alternatives and may so advise patients; there is also a temporary EU derogation to allow for a transition from dependence on the UK to other markets,” Sant Fournier said.

Last April the UK was given a derogation to ensure the continued long-term supply of medicines to Cyprus, Ireland and Malta markets that have been historically supplied through or by the UK.

For these three countries, the directive will apply until December 2024, by which time it is expected that they decrease their dependency on medicinal products from the UK.

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