January 15, 2019 / 7:46 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-European nations weigh impact of Brexit on drug supplies

(Adds details on Irish watchlist drugs)

FRANKFURT/DUBLIN, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Germany's drug safety regulator has concluded that Brexit will not put its patients at risk of losing access to essential drugs, while Ireland has drawn up a list of 24 medicines whose supply would be most vulnerable if Britain fails to conclude a divorce deal.

Between 60 and 70 percent of the 4,000 medicines on the Irish market either come from or transit through the United Kingdom.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said a working group of health officials meeting weekly for the last two years had drawn up the watch list, but advised against stockpiling.

"It is a really important message that I want to deliver to people in Ireland today, both to patients and pharmacists, that there is no need to stockpile medicines," Health Minister Simon Harris said at a news conference, warning that such action could inadvertently disturb the supply chain.

The country would have a supply of several weeks' worth of most medicines if Britain crashed out on March 29 without a deal, he added.

The medicines that may be vulnerable due to special storage and transportation needs, short shelf life or single supplier reliance included intravenous foods and some radiotherapy products.

Officials are progressing contingency plans, including identifying appropriate alternatives.

For its part, Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) last year ordered the country's main drug industry associations to gather information on the effect of a no-deal Brexit.

"For BfArm, the analysis has led to the conclusion that no shortages of medicines that are deemed critical are to be expected," the watchdog said on its website.

More than 2,600 drugs have some stage of manufacture in Britain and 45 million patient packs are supplied from the UK to other European countries each month, while another 37 million flow in the opposite direction, industry figures show.

The British government has asked UK drugmakers to build an additional six weeks' worth of medicine stockpiles to prepare for any no-deal Brexit - a target the industry has said will be challenging.

The EU's drugs regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said last August that it and national regulators had set up a task force to minimise supply disruptions arising over the next two years, adding that Brexit would likely affect the availability of medicines in the EU.

The Europe-wide drugs watchdog EMA is moving from London to Amsterdam, prompting many drugmakers to prepare duplicate product testing and licensing arrangements. (Reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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