An internal pharmaceutical industry memo has issued a stark warning to the government that some medical supply stockpiles have been used up entirely by the coronavirus pandemic, advising that now is the time to buy and store critical drugs to help treat the virus.

Seen by the BBC, the memo – which was prepared for the government back in May – explains that once the pandemic is over, stockpiling a broad range of drugs will be difficult because there will be “less or zero” products available than in 2019 to allow for this. 

Stockpiling took place last year in preparation for a no-deal Brexit and the industry itself had paid for six weeks’ worth of stockpiles.

Manufacturers are now concerned that it will be unfeasible to build stockpiles back up again in time, if the government doesn’t succeed in coming up with a post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU.

The memo issued a separate reminder to the government that the flow of medication has been made possible over the last few months amid the crisis because of information sharing and international coordination with companies around the world to either ramp up or redirect manufacturing.

“We would warn against any drastic policies mandating wholesale changes to global supply chains, as this could fundamentally disrupt the supply of medicines for the NHS and patients in other countries,” it went on to say.

A much broader list of medication must be stored moving forwards because of the challenges presented by both the pandemic and a possible no-deal Brexit at the end of the year, it was further asserted.

In order to have significant impact, the pharmaceutical industry is now saying that stockpiling will have to begin in the next couple of weeks and, even after the pandemic, it will not be possible to stockpile every medicine required.

The coronavirus crisis has revealed weaknesses in the supply chain, prompting NHS bosses and medical charities alike to urge the government to ensure drug manufacturing is more UK-based in the future as this will help to reduce shortages in the future.

As well as shortages of personal protective equipment, the pandemic has put strain on intensive care medicine supplies, over-the-counter drugs and oxygen, with rationing measures implemented in order to ensure that hospitals don’t run out.

In April, hospitals were told by NHS England to limit dialysis, because one in four patients with coronavirus in intensive care need kidney support. But the UK currently doesn’t manufacture any dialysis fluids, with these imported by three international suppliers instead.

The cost of medicines is now increasing because of these shortages and pharmaceutical manufacturers are finding it more difficult to source the raw materials required to make generic drugs, such as paracetamol.

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