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News & Press: International Trade News

UK bans ‘parallel exports’ of key medicines to ‘protect patients’

24 March 2020  
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The UK has restricted exports of 80 key medicines to prevent shortages during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The World Customs Organisation (WCO) has also urged the public to be cautious about the risk of purchasing counterfeit pharmaceutical products.

The UK government addressing the risk of shortages by banning ‘parallel exports’ of key drugs including paracetamol, morphine, adrenaline and insulin.

Government said the ban will protect UK patients by ‘ensuring the NHS has the treatments to continue providing world-class care’.

It defines parallel exporting as when ‘companies buy medicines meant for UK patients and sell on for a higher price in another country.’

Restrictions on parallel exports are often implemented by governments to manage potential shortages of medicines during crises like the Coronavirus outbreak.

Companies found to have breached the new restrictions will risk losing their trading licence. The restrictions will be enforced by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The Department of Health and Social Care has said there will be an ongoing review of which drugs are restricted, with ministers ready to ban exports of other drugs if necessary.

Read the government’s announcement of the ban here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/crucial-medicines-protected-for-coronavirus-covid-19-patients

WCO urges caution over counterfeit drugs

The WCO has also issued a statement regarding the rise in counterfeit medical supplies and the introduction of export controls on personal protective equipment.

It said that criminals were turning the outbreak into an opportunity and said there has been an ‘alarming number of reports quoting seizures of counterfeit critical medical supplies, such as face masks and hand sanitizers’, including in the UK.

The WCO has urged members to be ‘vigilant in these difficult times’ and cited the EU’s temporary export licensing scheme for personal protective equipment as an example for others to follow.