Dutch health & pharmacy sector scrambles:  delivery of 50 vitally crucial medicines and appliances threatened by a No Deal Brexit

People who know about the world market for medical supplies and medicines, basic human necessities in any civilized society, can only agree with Donald Tusk  that many bullhorning Brexiteers never did have a clue how to safely execute Brexit in all its aspects and consequences. 

In her article of 31st January, Caron Lindsay pointed to the growing insecurity around the delivery to British patients and the NHS generally of medicines etcetera imported from the continental EU. But it also disrupts patient security on the continent, and in the Netherlands in a life-threatening way.

On Wednesday 6th February, the Dutch parliament received the second alarming letter in a month from the relevant health minister, Bruno Bruins  about the supply of medicines and appliances like pacemakers certified (for EU use) in the UK. I’m using news items from NOS, our BBC, because it is the headline in all public radio and tv news bulletins today.

A month ago Mr Bruins wrote to parliament, saying that the Netherlands imports around a third (value: 2 billion euros/year from a total of 6,6 billion/year) of all its medicines and appliances from or via the UK; part of those imports are re-exported onwards. NOS quotes him writing that British medical imports are 2700 products (UK being a very big international player) and that Dutch doctors and hospitals use intermediaries and not always are sure where those products come from. He’s asked everybody in the Dutch health system to check where every product comes from and where it was certified for the EU market. If possible, UK producers or providers should be asked to transfer CE certification to the continent, Mr. Bruins wrote to buyers in the Dutch medical sector.

In his second letter, he reports that after checking all UK-sourced supplies, health people have identified at least 50 products that cannot be sourced anywhere else; and that 50 are the products that are vital in treating life-threatening diseases and conditions, hundreds more are crucial but not life-threatening. It turns out that plenty of US producers have used UK registration for  the EU market; all those products would lose that registration in case of a No Deal Brexit (the outcome British hardline Brexiteers await the best of all worlds from; they’ll settle for nothing less).

Up to 20 years ago, Dutch high street pharmacies (both family shops and affiliates of brand chains) still had the ability to produce equivalent medicines if the imported supply got interrupted; but that ability and those backroom workshops have almost totally disappeared. So if the import from or via the UK gets interrupted, patients are cut off immediately without a possibility of a domestic surrogate. 

And producing  or substituting medical appliances on this short notice is simply impossible. I suppose that works both ways, for NHS patients too.

* Dr. Bernard Aris is a historian, a D66 parliamentary researcher and a LibDem supporting member.

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  • Nonsense Bernard tis a well known fact that unicorn horn cures all
    The horn of a unicorn in particular was often described as being much more than just a simple antidote. It offered the user renewed strength and vigour, and had the ability to remove any contagion from the body, not just poisons.

    Do you not have unicorns in Holland? After Brexit we will have herds of multi coloured unicorns, as far as the eye can see, faries will fly over them, raining down gold and sweets to our grateful people. We will all happly stand at our garden gate tugging our forelock as Lord Wee Mogg passes by in his unicorn carriage muttering “God bless us, everyone!”.

  • Mark Seaman 9th Feb '19 - 9:49pm

    If the EU considers blocking imports from the UK into the EU then you should, as an EU citizen, seek confirmation from the EU that it will not do so.
    I would not recommend relying on any ‘hilarious’ ‘Frank’ statements, especially including the word ‘Bless’ for an even vaguely worthwhile view on the matter.

  • Thank you Mark, your post has at last made clear to me the Brexiteer/Lexiteers plan. Tis to plead, beg and demand that other people sort it out for them. In the case of the issues pointed by Bernard, it his responsibility to talk to the EU to ensure problems don’t happen. Well who was to know that Brexiteers definition of taking back control was to delegate the responsibility to anyone but them.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Feb '19 - 9:04am

    A unicorn is a rhino described by an adventurous traveller before the invention of photography.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Feb '19 - 9:09pm

    David, it is a serious issue indeed, and for many, many people, but we trust that a no-deal Brexit with its catastrophic consequences will never be permitted by Parliament. I must admit that I have always enjoyed our fellow Remainer Frankie’s imaginative flights of fancy and debunking of Brexiteers. Let a thousand faeries flourish, say I, glad of a little lightening – and I had never heard of unicorns, or associated Tinkerbell with them, till Frankie burst forth many months ago – he must surely have grandchildren! And he has also, to be fair, contributed serious posts with useful references. But I do realise it is very hard not to worry, when dependent on medicines. I hope, expect and pray all will be well for you and the many, many others. Roll on the People’s Vote and an end to any form of Brexit. Peace be with you, whom I am proud if I am right in thinking of you as a friend.

  • Perhaps some commenters should reflect and think more carefully, about how their words may impact on others with genuine personal concerns, before posting on LDV. With such a serious issue as this, which will be causing real anxiety for many who depend on an uninterrupted supply of esssential medicines and appliances, attempts at levity or “imaginative flights of fancy” (as Katharine charitably calls them) are both insensitive and inappropriate.

  • I think it’s pretty obvious that what frankie has sought to do is to ridicule the Brexiteers. Since that is the case, I don’t think he really deserves to be pilloried just because maybe some people think his jokes have misfired a little.

    Mark Seaman suggests that all the Dutch need to do is to make sure they don’t block imports from the UK. It isn’t as simple as that. As Bernard Aris points out, UK registration would automatically become invalid in Holland after 29th March in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If a Dutch regulator decided to turn a blind eye, he could be sued should some enterprising rogue swiftly take advantage by passing off counterfeit goods as UK-registered. That’s why Bernard has a point, and why slagging off “hilarious frankie” spectacularly misses his point.

    Depressingly, the Dutch, who will suffer from No Deal, are clearly on the ball and are seeking to minimise their risks as far as they can – but the UK government, the actual cause of the problem, is blithely unaware of the need to tackle it!

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Feb '19 - 11:08am

    Thanks, David, that’s generous of you – I will try to live up to such a kind description. Very glad that we are friends, and appreciate very much all that you do and have done. I hope the winter is passing for you and your family in good health and fair spirits. We all need to be done with Brexit, to be able to concentrate on the real needs of our poor country.

  • Peter Martin 11th Feb '19 - 12:19pm

    Yes these kinds of issues are important.

    So why has the EU been so unwilling to have trade talks running in parallel with WA talks?

    If we’d made some decent progress on that then the issue of the NI border would probably look a lot less difficult that it does now. I appreciate that 2 years may not have been enough to produce a final trade agreement but it should have been enough to produce an interim agreement – if the goodwill had been there on both sides.

    PS In a moment of annoyance, I wrote quite an unkind comment myself about Frankie the other day. Fortunately the automatic moderator chose to clamp down and didn’t let that one through. I should really know better!

  • Peter Martin 11th Feb '19 - 12:38pm

    @ Katharine Pindar,

    “…….the real needs of our poor country”

    We aren’t actually that poor with a GDP of about $40k per person per year.

    This includes everyone. Including infants and the person sleeping on the park bench. I’m not saying that economic growth isn’t important, but also the way our wealth and income is distributed should be considered to be important too.

    Whether or not we stay in the EU, the person on the bench will likely still be on the bench if we just consider the former, as we have in recent decades, without any consideration of the latter.

  • Bernard Aris 11th Feb '19 - 3:14pm

    I sugest Frankie
    *) goes to Hollywood or
    *)switches his attention to a website of a heraldic society.
    But I guess this suggestion will only draw another UNICquely ORnery respons from him. (deep sigh) 😉

    My deep sympathy to David Raw; I think a case like his was covered on the BBC News or Newsnight. A similar case was used in the Dutch TV news programs about the Brexit Medicine issue.

    @ Katherine Pindar
    After seeing the contortions, unicorn LSD-like trips {Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit: “Go ask Alice/ when she’s ten feet tall/ And if you go chasing rabbits/ and you know you’re going to fall..”} where they talk about impossibilities, backroom conglomerating of Brexit dreams (Malthouse), Corbyn pursuing his General Election for six months solid instead of dealing with hard facts as leader (or is it: Leaver) of HM’s Official Opposition, and almost everybody but a small transparty “band of brothers” avoiding or dismissisng a Second Referendum,
    I’ve all but given up on this parliament doing anything sensible about Brexit.

    And if all of parliament should vote not to acept a No Deal Brexit or Exit, what is their consensual alternative? May can solidly claim they don’t have a clue for one, and May lets Britain off a cliff, pointing to that No Alternative No Hard Brexit vote as being responsible.

  • bernard aris 12th Feb '19 - 2:46pm

    As an update I refer all British people (we on the continent can’t use Iplayer, so all BBC Tv material is lost if it doesn’t wind up on Youtube) to the item in last nights Newsnight: a leaked letter from the top of NHS England to all logistical anmd supply managers of NHS hospitals and clinics about serious Brexit disruption to their supply and post-March 29th deliveries of medicakl appliances.
    First point: keep an open entrance door 24/7 in your hospital, because delivery times become totally unpredicrable with frequent holdups for trucks and such.
    Second: Deliveries can take 3 extra days compared with normal (=EU) conditions,

    Third: Review the delivery routes of your suppliers: wich roads are clogged up 24/7, wich all year, wich for the next millenium…

    Just-in-Time deliverance flies out the window forever;
    nervous waits for doctors, nurses and patients (and their relatives) will ensue..

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