The Nuffield Trust has published an analysis of the impact of Brexit on the NHS. The paper states that it is likely that the UK will no longer be a member of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after Brexit but that there are a number of compelling reasons to retain as close a relationship as possible in order to ensure timely access to treatments.
The EU accounts for 25% of the world’s sales of medicines whereas the UK accounts for just 3%. As a result, at present, the UK is part of a high priority market for new drugs and treatments, but as a separate market it would likely get new treatments much later. Having access to the European market also helps the UK avoid the risk of shortages, and ‘parallel trade’ (where medicines are bought from countries where they are cheaper than the UK) provides competitive pressure for the prices in the pharmaceutical industry. This may mean that a deal is required to ensure that the UK continues to work closely with the EMA in the future.
Brexit could also result in the NHS facing a hefty bill, as the potential impact from a fracturing of the medicines market could cost £100 million or more. The statement that caring for pensioners who have to return to the UK could cost as much as £1 billion captured the headlines. It was also stated that training and additional pay to compensate for lost EU migrants could cost several hundred million pounds. With the right deal, the impact of these items could be minimised or eliminated. Report author Mark Dayan has said that “the NHS and social care were already under pressure from tight funding settlements and growing staffing problems well before the EU referendum last year. But if we handle it badly, leaving the EU could make these problems even worse…”