UK builds up Covid-19 medicines stockpile in case of second wave

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Contract worth almost £100m put out to tender in drive to ease strain on drugs supplies


The UK is likely to face strong competition for supplies from other nations that will be seeking to secure the same drugs © Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The UK government is building a medicines stockpile worth almost £100m to boost supplies of vital drugs ahead of a potential second wave of coronavirus.
A tender notice seen by the Financial Times lists 46 different medicines, spanning drugs used in intensive care and for end-of-life patients, as well as antibiotics, with a total value of £96m. NHS England’s annual medicines bill is £16bn and covers 12,000 different medicines.

The initial contract, expected to be let in August, will be for 12 months “with the option to extend annually for a further two years”, the document says.
Industry insiders have told the FT that at the peak of the UK’s pandemic, it was at times touch and go as to whether sufficient supplies of medicines would arrive in time, although in the event, demand was always met. The NHS was able to draw on a stockpile of medicines compiled in anticipation of a potential no-deal Brexit, to ease the strain on supplies.
However, the FT disclosed last month that there was concern at the highest levels of the health department that the Brexit stockpile had been eroded and that attempts to restock could be hit by disruption to international production of generic drugs in India and China and the risks of a second wave interrupting global supplies this year.

The UK is likely to face strong competition for supplies from other nations that will be seeking to secure the same drugs as they also prepare for another peak of the disease. One NHS procurement director said: “These are exceptional circumstances with lots of other countries going after the same commodities. Manufacturers will have to ramp up production to extraordinary levels.”

Richard Torbett, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said companies “continue to work around the clock to manufacture the most essential medicines for Covid-19 and will do everything they can to make sure those who need them can get them”.

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Source: Financial Times
Author: Sarah Neville