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A European Parliament committee has called for 'targeted actions' to ensure the continuing supply of drugs and medical devices after Brexit.

With the UK set to leave the European Union at the end of the month, politicians in the remaining 27 member states have been scrutinising the terms of the withdrawal agreement. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) published its take on the exit agreement on Tuesday.

Writing to the chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, ENVI primarily focused on the impact of Brexit on efforts to protect the environment. However, the statement also covered the effect of Brexit on public health.

ENVI addressed two broad points related to public health. Firstly, the committee called for “targeted actions to ensure continued and rapid access to safe medicines and medical devices for patients, including a secure and consistent supply of radioisotopes”.

The committee’s prioritisation of that topic reflects the potential for the disruption of trade links between the UK and the remaining 27 EU member states to stop medicines reaching patients. That risk is particularly acute for radioisotopes as the short half lives of many such drugs and diagnostics limits a country’s ability to stockpile them.

ENVI’s second point on public health matters calls for the EU and UK to “work towards mutual recognition of professional qualifications to ensure the mobility of medical professionals”. As ENVI sees it, such mutual recognition is needed to ensure patient safety.

As part of the EU, the UK is subject to a reciprocal framework intended to ensure professional qualifications gained in one participating country are recognised in another. Leaving the EU without a deal covering professional qualifications would break the mechanism for mutual recognition.

The UK addressed that scenario in its no-deal planning, stating that it would not be “appropriate to retain provisions based on a framework that will no longer be reciprocated by the EU”.

In place of the outgoing system, the UK government outlined plans to “ensure that there is a system for recognition of qualifications”. The system would enable people who enter the UK after Brexit to seek recognition for their qualifications.

ENVI thinks it is of the “utmost importance” that the concerns it sets out in the letter are “duly noted and addressed”. In practice, that means ENVI wants the Committee on Constitutional Affairs to work its suggestions into the motion for a resolution.

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