UK’s largest supplier of insulin has warned that new shipping routes will be needed as an alternative to Dover, if the Government wants medicine stockpiles to be maintained in the case of no-deal Brexit.
Danish company Novo Nordisk manufactures more than half the UK's insulin, the majority of which is imported through the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel to about 500,000 patients.
A no-deal Brexit would see the UK leaving the European Union without any agreements in place for a future relationship.
- Read more: Stockpiling: What will happen to our medicine after Brexit?
The company reassured those concerned about getting access to the drug, saying they have “doubled” their stock.
“By the end of January we will have doubled our stock in the UK to 16 weeks,” the company wrote on twitter.
“We will continue to build stock ahead of 29 March when we expect to have around two and a half times our normal stock levels (roughly 17 weeks) in readiness for a potential no-deal Brexit.”
'Delays are unknown'
Novo Nordisk's UK general manager, Pinder Sahota told Sky News that finding alternative routes was essential to ensuring supplies were topped up.
He explained: "Stockpiling is one of the solutions but it is not the only solution. The replenishment of the stock post-Brexit is the next phase, and there are certain factors beyond our control here.
"The delays are unknown, which is why we have built the stocks, why we have booked air freight, and we will be looking to other ports as well in addition to Dover.
"Dover is the key one where it all comes through today, but we would welcome Poole, Felixstowe, Hull (Immingham), Portsmouth, as many as possible to make sure that the disruption can be minimised."
About 75% of all medicines are imported and 80 million packets of medicine pass back and forth between the UK and Europe every month, with Dover-Calais being the main route used.
'Uninterrupted' in the case of no-deal Brexit
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that individuals do not need to stockpile their medicine.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it recognised the "vital importance" of the medicine supply chain and had secured space on the routes highlighted by the pharmaceutical industry.
A spokesperson said: "The government has secured additional capacity on a variety of routes including ferries into and out of Poole, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Immingham and Felixstowe, where medicines will be prioritised.
"We have asked manufacturers to build up six weeks' additional stocks of medicines and we are confident that, if everyone does what they should do, the supply of medicines will be uninterrupted in the event of exiting the EU without a deal."
In a letter to NHS staff in August last year, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that patients do not need to store additional NHS medicines or medical products at home.
“Hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies throughout the UK do not need to take any steps to stockpile additional medicines, beyond their business as usual stock levels,” he said.
“There is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions. Local stockpiling is not necessary and any incidences involving the over ordering of medicines will be investigated and followed up with the relevant Chief or Responsible Pharmacist directly.
“Clinicians should advise patients that the Government has plans in place to ensure a continued supply of medicines to patients from the moment we leave the EU. Patients will not need to and should not seek to store additional medicines at home.”