UK stockpiles of Covid-19 drugs for second wave

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The UK government is building a stock of medicines worth almost £ 100 million to boost the supply of essential medicines before a second potential wave of coronaviruses.

Financial Times Notice of Tendering lists 46 different drugs, covering critical care and end-of-life drugs, as well as antibiotics, totaling £ 96 million . The annual NHS England drug bill is £ 16 billion and covers 12,000 different drugs.

The initial contract, which should be concluded in August, will have a duration of 12 months “with the possibility of extending annually for two more years,” the document said.

Industry insiders told the FT that at the peak of the UK pandemic, it was sometimes difficult to know whether an adequate supply of drugs would arrive on time, although in this case demand remained been satisfied. The NHS was able to rely on a stock of medicines compiled in anticipation of a possible Brexit without agreement, to ease the pressure on supplies.

However, the FT revealed last month that the highest levels of the health department feared that the stock of Brexit would be eroded and that replenishment attempts could be affected by disruptions in international production of generic drugs in India. and in China and by the risks of a second wave interrupting global supply this year.

The UK is likely to face strong competition for supplies from other countries which will seek the same drugs as they are also preparing for another peak of the disease. An NHS purchasing manager said, “These are exceptional circumstances with many other countries looking for the same products. Manufacturers will have to increase production to extraordinary levels. ”

Richard Torbett, CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said that companies “continue to work around the clock to make the most essential drugs for Covid-19 and will do everything possible to ensure that those who need it can get it. “

Richard Torbett, executive director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said that drug supply chains held up extremely well during the pandemic © Neil Hall / Bloomberg

Despite extraordinary demand from countries around the world, drug supply chains have “withstood the pressures of the past few months,” added Torbett.

He said it was “entirely appropriate”, however, for the British government “to plan for the worst case and introduce additional resilience in the supply of some of the most clinically critical drugs” .

The tender document states that it “integrates demand forecast for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”, but some products will only be purchased in England, at Wales and Northern Ireland. The tendering process will start on July 23 with a deadline for submission of tenders on August 7.

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The government’s tender document states that the UK is also part of a European Commission tender for 24 intensive care medicines for intensive care patients in 15 EU countries. “The orders for shares issued within the framework of the European Commission for the United Kingdom will come from Public Health England; orders will not be placed by the European Commission, “he said.

However, there is no specific commitment to a fixed volume or value of medicines under the EU tender, leaving the UK better placed to secure supplies as part of its own tender, suggested an industry insider.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said: “As the public would rightly expect, we are doing everything we can to prepare all the scenarios and protect the patients of the NHS.

“This includes building up a stock of essential drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients as a reasonable precaution, to ensure uninterrupted supply over the next few months.”

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