Following the Coronavirus Pandemic, there has been a lot of speculation as to whether the UK should be more self-sufficient with pharmaceutical drug manufacturing, with drug shortages putting the healthcare industry under significant pressure in recent months. Of course, such drug shortages are not all new and are a global issue, not least in the UK. However, in the United Kingdom, 196 medicines are not able to be exported from the country, up from just 29 products at the start of the year – an increase of 575.87%.
With this in mind, we’re answering whether the UK should be more self-sufficient with pharmaceutical drug manufacturing, below.
Why Does It Matter?
In order to reduce the risk of future shortages of pharmaceutical drugs, NHS leaders and various medical charities in the UK are requesting for ministers to bring greater drug manufacturing into the UK. This comes as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, which led to a shortage of some pharmaceutical drugs including paracetamol and personal protective equipment (PPE) including facemasks and rubber gloves.
It’s not just a lack of PPE that has impact the UK however, as the pandemic has put a great strain on the supplies of various intensive care equipment and medicine including the need for oxygen. In order to ensure the NHS does not run out of this vital equipment, they have had no choice but to install new measures in hospitals, which, should the virus have continued to spread, could’ve been life-threatening to many.
It’s not just that which is concerning many with loved ones at high risk of catching the virus, as the shortages are impacting day-to-day care at hospitals up and down the UK as we continue to battle through the pandemic. Many are calling for critical drugs to now be made in the UK to help prevent further shortages, not just as a result of the latest pandemic.
The Shortage of Dialysis Fluids For COVID-19 Patients in the UK
It’s not just the lack of oxygen that largely impacted the NHS either, as they also faced a shortage of dialysis fluids to support COVID-19 patients with kidney injuries, of which are not made within the UK. Instead, such fluids are shipped to the United Kingdom by three international suppliers that have previously experienced shortages as a result of natural disasters, causing a shortage that was completely out of the UK’s control. But what is the importance of these fluids?
With 28% of patients requiring kidney support when in intensive care, hospitals and other healthcare units are having to store dialysis fluid as a result of the country’s shortage. It’s used to remove waste products and other excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop functioning properly. In many cases, the treatment involves blood being cleaned by a machine, potentially saving lives.
The Global Supply of Medicines & Recent Shortages
The global supply of medicines and recent shortages is something that needs to be monitored closely in order to protect those who need them. During these challenging times, the Director of International Relations at the NHS Confederation, Layla McCay, stated that the UK must play “its full part” becoming more self-sufficient with pharmaceutical drug manufacturing, stating that:
“Future government policy should ensure that the UK is as attractive as possible for the next wave of manufacturing innovation. We need to be investing in infrastructure to build the facilities to do this. And we need to be investing in talent which means attracting the top scientific brains to the UK and the top manufacturing talent.”
Ongoing Shortages of Vital Drugs Across the United Kingdom
Even though life is slowly resuming back to normal, considering the current situation, we can expect further shortages to occur. Fiona Loud at Kidney Care UK stated that “We need to learn from this,” explaining that “The supply chain isn’t as good – isn’t as robust – as it could be. If it cannot be guaranteed, there has to be a commitment to some UK initiative on this.”
A senior lecturer at the University of Sussex also provided evidence to the Commons trade select committee asking for a “major structural change in support chains” stating that “what we should be thinking about is having a parallel supply chain, where you have the ability and the manufacturing capacity to make critical drugs in the UK,”
So, to answer the question as to whether the UK should be more self-sufficient with pharmaceutical drug manufacturing? The answer is of course, yes. Not only will this help to support our pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, but also the patients who require such treatments.