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Diabetes UK responds to reports that a no-deal Brexit could disrupt UK insulin supply

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Last week Sir Michael Rawlins, Chair of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), expressed concerns that a failure to secure a trade deal ahead of Brexit in 2019 could have a significant impact on the importation of insulin into the UK.

We have issued the following response from our Director of Policy, Campaigns and Improvement, Bridget Turner:

“More than a million people with diabetes in the UK rely on insulin. It’s absolutely vital that clear systems are in place to ensure that those who rely on insulin and other medicines from abroad continue to have access to them, and that there is no disruption in supply either now or in the future.

“Insulin isn’t an optional extra for people with diabetes who rely on it, so it’s incredibly important that those companies involved in its production and supply, and those involved in guaranteeing its entry into the UK, work together to ensure supply continues uninterrupted.

“Many people with diabetes reliant on insulin are getting worried that they may not have access to supplies needed. The Brexit Health Alliance – which Diabetes UK, through our membership of the Richmond Group of Charities, is a member – has raised concerns about medicines supply, and the need for manufacturers, suppliers, the Department of Health, NHS England and those leading the negotiations to work together to give urgent clarification on what systems and safeguards are in place to ensure continued access to insulin in the future."

Insulin supply in the UK

Insulin in the UK comes from three main pharmaceutical manufacturers, Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk. Currently, all analogue and synthetic human insulin is imported from outside of the UK, and these are the most common forms of insulin used by people with diabetes in the UK.

Novo Nordisk is the world’s largest producer of insulin. They have production sites in the US, Brazil, Denmark, France, China, Russia, Algeria and in Japan.

Lilly produces insulin in the US, Puerto Rico, France and Italy. They have packaging facilities for these products in France and China.

Sanofi has manufacturing sites in Germany, Russia, India, China and Saudi Arabia. They do manufacture some drugs in the UK, but insulin is not produced in the UK by them.

A fourth provider, Wockhardt, manufacture animal insulin and have a plant in Wrexham. Very few people use animal insulin in the UK, and it would not currently be possible for them to supply the whole UK market.

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