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By Noor Zainab Hussain
Jan 25 (Reuters) - Novartis called on Britain to act urgently to protect supply chains on Friday as the Swiss drugmaker, which imports more than 120 million packs of medicines from Europe each year, said it was stockpiling ahead of Brexit.
"Given the complex nature of the supply chain, government needs to implement a comprehensive continuity plan rapidly," Novartis said https://www.novartis.co.uk/news/media-releases/novartis-uk-brexit-statement in a statement.
Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, although Prime Minister Theresa May has not been able to get the accord she agreed with the rest of the bloc through parliament, leaving businesses facing the prospect of a "no-deal" exit.
"It is vital that government makes minimising disruption to the medicines supply the highest priority as it prepares for a potential hard or disorderly Brexit and ensures cooperation over medicines regulation in this event," it added.
Novartis said a divergence from the close regulatory and legal cooperation that exists between the UK and the European Union has "far-reaching implications" for the sector's ability to develop and deliver medicines for UK patients.
Basel-based Novartis urged Britain to implement a comprehensive continuity plan rapidly to ensure medicines can reach patients in the event of a no-deal Brexit, including clarity over customs arrangements.
"It is also imperative that NHS trusts and pharmacists adhere to the Government's advice not to stockpile medicines so supply can be managed centrally, minimising the risk of medicine shortages across the UK," Novartis said.
Britain has called for drugmakers to build an additional six weeks of medicines to cope with potential supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit - a target the industry has said would be challenging. (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Alexander Smith)
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