'Broad progress' on medicines access for Northern Ireland patients following concerns about Protocol
PROGRESS on distribution of medicines to Northern Ireland is being made following concerns about the impact of the Brexit Protocol on access to vital treatments.
It was reported by RTÉ yesterday that the European Commission is close to finding a solution on the issue.
The development comes a fortnight after charities expressed concerns about reduced access to a lung cancer drug for northern patients due to the NI Protocol, which created a a trade border down the Irish Sea that requires checks and controls on goods moving between Britain and the north.
Since January 1, medicines for Northern Ireland and Britain are regulated under different regimes but overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The north is now bound by the decisions of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), while the rest of the UK can make its own decisions - and is currently fast tracking certain cancer treatments
The new DUP leader Edwin Poots has accused the Irish Government of wanting to "starve" Northern Ireland of medicines, including cancer drugs.
However, it is understood there is "broad progress" in current negotiations between the European Commission and UK officials across a range of areas including health, with the Commission briefing member states that a solution would be forthcoming giving the UK's responsibility to the north in terms of public health.
One EU source told RTÉ: "One of the arguments has been that, under the protocol, the UK government remains responsible for public health in Northern Ireland and in that context the UK remains responsible for ensuring that there is an adequate supply of medicines on the market.
"So, therefore the Commission and EU have to take the responsibility that falls on the UK government into account. It's not clear what exactly they're going to propose, but it sounds like there could be a blanket acceptance of medicines whereby the authorisation holder would stay in the UK."
A 'grace period' in relation to the Protocol will end in December.