Brexit and Beyond: 5 Potential Impacts the Pharma Industry Should Be Planning For

Brexit protests jpg

Whether you’re affected by it or care about it, there’s no escaping it….

Brexit may well be the number one concern for businesses at the moment, but have you considered the impact of Cybercrime with climate change piled on top of that? 

Like it or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that these twin threats will impact your business at some point.

The Pharmaceutical industry has an annual turnover of £41.8 billion, providing 8.2% of UK goods exported and collectively employing 113,000 people, and is thus a major contributor to the nation’s ability to care for an ageing population and support an uncertain economy. 

What challenges does the Pharmaceutical industry face from these significant threats and how does the Government protect it?  

The Brexit Conundrum

Leading up to Brexit, business continuity is the Government’s focus, dedicating a team to observe and manage issues relating to stockpiling, supply chains, legislation and responding to any changes affecting businesses. 

Their advice has been:


Stockpiling at local level should not be done, in order to avoid shortages elsewhere. The advice to pharmacies and NHS trusts is to continue to carry stock at BAU levels. The Government will oversee stockpiling at a national level and Pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers are encouraged to carry an additional six weeks’ worth of supplies in reserve. More on the perils of stockpiling from The NewStatesman.

Supply chain

There are no plans to put any further checks in place at the borders which could affect supplies coming into the UK.  It’s crucial to understand and identify points in the chain that are vulnerable to disruption and delay, and the DHSC and EU continue to work together with the main aim being to keep delays to the minimum. More information on how much of a threat Brexit is to supply chains from Information Age.


The DHSC has drafted The Human Medicines (Amendment) Regulations 2019 as an amendment to the existing legislation.  The proposed amendments will allow pharmacists to substitute like for like prescription drugs. An important note is that these regulations have not yet been passed by government.  Further information from The Institute of Government details potential legal implications across nearly all UK businesses, not just Pharma.

The industry alone will receive £1.3bn of investment from the Government. The financial backing proves that the Government recognises the vital importance of the pharma industry and the importance of protecting it. Let’s hope it will be enough.

After Brexit what next?

Pharma Cybercrime Inverroy

Cybercrime – it’s already here

It’s fair to say that, cybercrime is the second biggest threat to the pharma industry behind Brexit.  Companies operating in the pharma market are prime targets for attack because big business provides a rich target for cyber criminals and in an industry where intellectual property in the drug development cycle runs into many, many billions of dollars/pounds/euros, large, medium and small pharma companies have a genuine need to make sure that they have the highest level of protection when it comes to online crime.

The Petya cyberattack that spread from the Ukrainian National Bank through to US pharmaceutical giant Merck in summer 2017, highlighted the very real financial risks that pharmaceutical businesses face. The sensitive information that all companies in the life sciences sector hold, make it is easy to see why it has been more of a target than other industries. The attacks that damage revenues are eyewatering, like the  Reckitt Benckiser announcement in July that £100 million of revenue would be affected as a result of a cyber-attack. 

It’s heating up for the pharma industry and that’s just the Climate!

Global climate change has had an unprecedented effect on our environment, extreme temperatures and flooding are taking their toll, only recently the Todbrook Reservoir in Derbyshire threatened to flood an entire village potentially making many people homeless and disrupting businesses and yet, conversely the World Economic Forum has ranked the water supply crisis as the number 1 global risk to business over the next ten years.

The pharma industry is not immune to the risks of water scarcity as it requires vast amounts to produce medicines, over the counter drugs and veterinary drugs. 

Global Mega-Trends such as rapid economic growth and increased energy demand is stimulated by emerging markets.  Such growth will lead to a rapid increase in the percentage of water usage and energy demand by industries such as pharma.  The question is the sustainability of its dominance in consumption.

Whilst contributing to the water shortage and expelling more carbon emissions than other industries, the irony is that the pharma sector is set to prosper by providing vaccines and medicines for disease and illness caused by climatic change which it has contributed to – but as always, some good comes from bad

The question now is, as well as being a contributor and victim, can it provide a cure?

Author: Stu Wallace, Senior Consultant, Sector Lead: Pharma

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