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Labour: Brexit causing cancer-drug anxiety

01 February 2019

Industry officials and politicians warn of delays and restricted access


A pharmacist produces cancer drugs (Zytostatika) in a laboratory of a pharmacy in Germany

A pharmacist produces cancer drugs (Zytostatika) in a laboratory of a pharmacy in Germany

ANXIETY over access to drugs for the treatment of cancer in the event of a no-deal Brexit is rising, as industry officials and politicians warn of delays and restricted access.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, during the Brexit debate, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “It will not be any comfort to say: ‘I told you so’ when the lorries are backing up on the M20, when cancer patients can’t get medicines, and when prices are rising in the shops. So tonight we have the opportunity to take ‘no-deal’ off the table.”

Channel 4 News reported on Tuesday evening that industry bodies were increasingly worried about shortages of isotopes in a no-deal Brexit scenario, as they arrive from Europe and need to reach their destination within 66 hours. Isotopes are used to treat 850,000 patients in the UK every year.

The Assistant Curate of All Saints with St John, Clifton, the Revd Wendy Bray, who has a terminal-cancer diagnosis (Faith, 25 January), said that she was worried about the implications of Brexit for those relying on cancer drugs.

“The frustration is that we can’t get any reassurances from anyone. The email address listed on the Health Secretary’s web page is incorrect; so emails go nowhere, and I haven’t had a reply from communications with NHS England.”

Her husband, Paul Roberts, wrote in a Facebook post: “It is only the Conservatives who are presently countenancing the possibility of a ‘hard’ Brexit, which is why I’m asking you to consider writing to your MP to dissuade them of supporting this course of action. I understand their arguments for supporting it, but it wagers a considerable risk to the vulnerable population of Britain in order to provide a hard position at the European negotiating table.

“I wish I had confidence in the ability of the UK Government, and the Department of Health in particular, to guarantee a supply of all needed drugs to the UK in the event of a ‘hard’ Brexit, but recent examples of government management of crises do not inspire that kind of confidence.

“I also realise that, compared to less developed countries, we are incredibly lucky to have access to this kind of care anyway. But, personally, every moment that Wendy and I can share together is precious. Therefore, I’m asking those of you who are in a position to do so, to write to your MP to indicate the concerns of minority drug-users whose lives, though cut short, still depend on a seamless supply of this wonderful medicine.”

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