The UK is set to officially depart from the EU at the end of the year. Here are some potential Brexit effects on Irish pharmaceuticals.

Brexit has presented the Irish with some big challenges. It is a move that will have a big impact on both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for at least the next few decades.

There are Brexit effects we are only beginning to understand as the changes take place in earnest after much delay and debate. (Even now, the relationship between the UK and EU is not fully decided.)

Efforts are being made so that citizens of Northern Island and the Republic of Ireland can still remain fairly connected. As one exits the EU and the other remains, the hope is relations can still be kept cordial. Brexit has the potential to seriously harm both economies.

What does this all mean for the Irish and their access to pharmaceuticals? That is the precise question we intend to focus on today

Brexit’s Effects on NI and RoI

What Brexit holds for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland isn’t completely clear. Some even worry it could reignite The Troubles as border security tightens and Ireland begins to feel more distinctly split.

The basics of this split need to be highlighted to properly understand what it means for both economies. It is critical both learn to operate in these new conditions over the next few years.

The Republic of Ireland is in the European Union (EU), carrying with it all the benefits and drawbacks that position offers.

Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK. While its exact relation to its sovereign state is debated, this connection to the UK means it has left the EU along with the rest of the UK.

All of this is critical to understanding the state of pharmaceutical access in both regions. Pharmaceutical access is a matter of the ease of manufacture, the ease of trade, and the ease of navigating the politics and regulations of both. Brexit has affected all three of these branches for both the RoI and NI.

Trade between EU powers and those outside the EU can be complicated. Taxation is higher and regulations are tighter. Goods move slower.

This is true even between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Trade and travel are still harder, even if they are not as hard as they are between, say, Northern Ireland and other members of the EU.

The Brexit transition isn’t over yet. There have been many delays and displays of brinkmanship. Until the process is over, the “normal” manner trade and manufacture will operate will not yet be clear.

The Pharmaceutical Shortage

With the issues we’ve touched on focusing not just on Brexit but also NI and RoI relations, we must try very hard not to politicize the facts of the situation. For now, we will focus on a few issues that bear addressing.

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have both recently suffered pharmaceutical shortages. The economic changes that came with Brexit are at least partially to blame. The longterm effect Brexit has on pharmaceutical availability is not yet clear and won’t be until negotiations are further along.

Secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic then began in early 2020 (late 2019 in China). This exacerbated many of the issues RoI and NI were having.

Travel and trade became even more difficult. The pandemic has strained healthcare workers. Medical goods of all kinds are harder to obtain.

Finally, this strain is putting human lives at risk. As many as 7 in 10 Irish pharmacists report significant increases in drug shortages. About half of pharmacists worry these shortages will significantly impact patient care.

Many bigger maneuvers to combat the shortage will have to wait until COVID-19 has passed. Some just are not possible and others may be less wise than they seem. It isn’t always clear what problems are long-term and which are a temporary result of the pandemic.

The Economic Limbo of the Republic of Ireland

This combination of Brexit and COVID-19 is putting the RoI in a difficult position. With no solid UK-EU agreement yet in place, the RoI is in a vague limbo state in terms of how it can trade with its neighbors.

The idea that had been proposed is it would take it trade pharmaceutical supplies, drugs, and innovations with other powers, such as the United States, to make up for the loss.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 blindsided everyone and suddenly trade with anyone but close neighbors became much more difficult, especially regarding anything even tangentially related to healthcare.

Until the pandemic’s threat lessens and more nations can open their borders, the RoI is being forced to weather this economic and healthcare storm. Once the pressures COVID-19 has put on the world pass, it remains to be seen what will happen to the RoI.

The hope is that with neighboring markets becoming inaccessible or at least much more expensive than the past, it will encourage exploration into new markets. This has the potential of expanding the RoI pharmaceutical industry as trade relations with countries like the USA and its many powerful tech giants are improved.

In contrast, a failure to effectively make these connections could leave Irish citizens in a healthcare crisis. There is a risk that old trade partners become less valuable or disappear completely but are unable to be fully replaced with new ones.

Economies Don’t Exist in Vacuums

It needs to be noted that even COVID-19 and Brexit aside, no economy exists in a vacuum. The pharmaceutical industry is affected by basically any change that affects how easy it is to manufacture and transport pharmaceutical goods.

Certainly, both Brexit and the pandemic are major factors in some of the negative trends Irish citizens see regarding things like drug availability. At the same time, it would be reductionist to claim those are the only factors.

Taxation, road construction, and even weather can affect the availability of goods. Government incentives can meanwhile cause companies to increase drug availability. In short, economies are complex.

Ireland was unprepared for the combination of COVID-19 and Brexit. Few economies would not struggle under the challenges that the combination presented, but it is still true.

The economy can be adapted so it is more resilient to these challenges. The concern is what politicians and industry professionals do to get there.

The trouble is that adapting an economy to new challenges is difficult. Politicians often resist change, as do large companies. It is easier to blame outside challenges than adapt to new realities.

Ireland is more than capable of solving its pharmaceutical crisis. It has the resources and connections necessary to find a solution. All that needs to happen is an admittance some economic shifts are here to stay.

Opportunities to Help

As with any shortage, the Republic of Ireland now has many openings and opportunities for qualified individuals that wish to help.

Companies like ours seek out pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to fill important roles in the industry and we’re not alone. The pharmaceutical industry needs talented applicants to help face the challenges ahead.

For those curious, non-EU/EEA citizens wishing to work in Ireland can get visas/permits to work in Ireland with some restrictions. We at MedPharm know this can be a big process for just about anyone. That’s why we help simplify the hassle for anyone who decides to work for us!

If you’re looking for employees, we can help there too. As a recruiter with years of experience hiring talented individuals, we can fill just about any pharmaceutical niche. We’ll make sure you get qualified professionals that fit your exact needs.

Brexit Effects Cannot Be Ignored

Both those living in NI and the RoI are going to feel the impact of the Brexit referendum for years to come. The Brexit effects on both regions not just in the pharmaceutical industry but in practically every aspect of the economy aren’t even yet fully clear.

There are years of negotiations and rule changes big and small to come. Things will likely normalize as the hardest aspects of Brexit are figured out but, even then, the minutia of trade agreements and other political dealings between EU and non-EU powers simply take longer than negotiations between powers within the EU.

Interested in hiring pharmacists or becoming one yourself?

Contact us for more information and we can help you find the opportunities you’re looking for.

MedPharm is a leading pharmaceutical recruitment company that can help both employers and prospective employees in the pharmaceutical field. Let us help you fight back against the struggles Brexit and COVID-19 have brought to the industry.