French company Sanofi is beginning to stockpile drugs in preparation for a hard Brexit.

The company is increasing its stocks by four weeks to give it a 14 week supply of medicines in case of any disruption to supply caused by a no-deal Brexit.

Extra supplies of a wide range of products, including insulin, are being built up.

Sanofi is worried about any transport delays following Brexit, as most of its supplies have to cross the Channel.

“The uncertainty in the Brexit negotiations means that Sanofi has been planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario,” said Hugo Fry, managing director, Sanofi UK, adding this was in line with recommendations by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations.

“Patient safety is our main priority and we have made arrangements for additional warehouse capacity in order to stockpile our products, where global supply allows, in the UK and increase UK-based resource to prepare for any changes to customs or regulatory processes,” said Mr Fry.

He said the plans were based on the company’s assessment of the impact of hard Brexit and the company had written to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the NHS about its plans.

The company’s Brexit preparations were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Quality control

The extra four weeks of supply is being built up as most of its supplies arrive in the UK through the Channel Tunnel. Disruption to this route in 2005, when there were strikes in France, led to around four weeks of disruption.

Another area of concern is the need to send batches of medicine back to the continent for quality control, which could become difficult if there is a hard Brexit. This means that some quality controls tasks performed by its Haverhill manufacturing facility in Suffolk will be conducted in the remaining 27 EU countries.

“This will lead to 12 planned job losses across several functions by summer 2020 although we are doing all we can to mitigate redundancies where possible,” Mr Fry said.

Mr Fry said the preparations mean “Sanofi will hold 14 weeks stock in the UK as from April 2019, which is an increase of our current in country holding of approximately 10 weeks stock and is based on our own internal assumptions of potential delays around a ‘no deal’ scenario”.

“Sanofi is confident that its contingency plans will ensure that people in the UK can access the treatments they need after the UK leaves the European Union,” said Mr Fry

Wider problem

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS in England was preparing to stockpile medicines and blood in case the UK left the EU without a deal. He told the Health Select Committee that he had asked the department to work up options for stockpiling by industry”

“We are working with industry for the potential need for stockpiling in the event of a no-deal Brexit,” Mr Hancock said last week.

Other pharmaceutical companies have also begun to increase their stock piles. Last month, AstraZeneca said it was increasing drug stockpiles by about 20%in preparation for a no-deal Brexit.

It is not just pharmaceutical companies that are talking about stockpiling.

Plane manufacturer Airbus has said it may have to build supplies as its operates as “just in time” supply chain that replies on frictionless trade across the EU. UK engine maker Rolls-Royce has also warned about the need to stockpile parts.