Listen: Doug Beattie urges politicians to work together to prevent medicine shortages

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Northern Ireland remains under the EU medicine regulatory system

By Q Radio News

Northern Ireland could be facing shortages of life-saving medicines within a matter of months.

That's according to Ulster Unionist leader, Doug Beattie, who is calling on politicians to take urgent action.

He fears that when the grace period ends, the full force of the protocol arrangement will be felt.

Under the terms of the arrangement, Northern Ireland remains under EU medicines rules.

Mr Beattie says he's concerned that nothing has been done on the issue so far after Health Minister, Robin Swann, warned the executive about the potential for patients to be left without life-saving treatments.

He said: “The warning from Robin Swann should be a wake-up call for both the EU and UK Government. The issue of the provision of medicines affects every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland. There is no immediate shortage of medicines, but if action isn`t taken now that is exactly what we could be facing come the new year. This isn`t scaremongering - it is the practical out-workings of the NI Protocol and there is a practical solution. 

“The UK Government now needs to follow through on its proposal in the Command Paper it published in July and ‘remove all medicines from the scope of the Protocol entirely.’

"I wrote to the Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the EU Commission in June calling on the EU to show pragmatism on this issue. However when he wrote back to me on 19 August he said that ‘the EU will table a legislative proposal in the early autumn’. That won`t deal with this issue. It`s simply too little and too late. Pharmaceutical companies have already issued their notices to withdraw supply from Northern Ireland next year and will continue to do so. They need reassurance that solutions will be produced in a timely manner that they can work with.

"I spoke to Robin this morning and he again emphasised the urgency of the situation. He wrote to his Executive colleagues on this issue, but as yet no action has been taken. This is an issue that we need to see a united Executive, UK and EU response on. We can`t afford to lose any more time.”

(The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Doug Beattie)

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