PARIS (Reuters) - Sanofi has nearly completed its preparations for Britain’s planned exit from the European Union and is confident its additional stockpiling of medicines and other measures will prevent shortages for patients in the country.
British Prime Minister Theresa May was on a collision course with the EU on Wednesday after lawmakers demanded she renegotiate a Brexit divorce deal that the other members of the bloc said they would not reopen.
Last week, Switzerland’s Novartis called on the British government to urgently guarantee the movement of drugs in the event of a chaotic Brexit and said it was stockpiling to maintain deliveries.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29. The highly regulated drugs sector is one of the most vulnerable to a no-deal outcome due to its pan-European supply chains and need for regulatory oversight.
“We have final bits of execution left but our stocks will reach their target levels by the end of February,” Hugo Fry, Sanofi’s managing director for the UK and Ireland told Reuters, adding the company was “as ready as can be.”
“When we first sat down and started thinking about it in the beginning of 2017, we realised there was absolutely no point in working on six or seven potential scenarios,” Fry said.
“What we quickly realised was that we had to prepare for the worst and that is when we decided to assume, for planning purposes, for a no deal Brexit.”
Fry said the French drugmaker would stockpile an average of 16 weeks worth of supply across its portfolio, which encompasses products ranging from vaccines to insulin.
Other measures include putting in place alternative routes from the Calais-Dover itinerary most companies use between Britain and the continent and considering possible air freight shipments if necessary.
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.
Sanofi, which employs around 1,200 people in Britain, has one production site in the country located in Suffolk and imports its insulin products from a manufacturing plant in Frankfurt, Germany.
Fry said Sanofi had transferred some activities from its Suffolk plant to Waterford, Ireland, to ensure the medicines it makes there for the European market were properly tested and released in compliance with EU regulations.
Editing by Richard Lough/Leigh Thomas/Alexander Smith