Hertfordshire LEP took part in the 10th Pharmaceutical Industry Network Group (PING) Conference on 3 April to hear from sector experts and help inform the development of the county's Local Industrial Strategy. The event was attended by over 120 delegates from the pharma supply chain and held for the second successive year on Brexit, in conjunction with Ethical Medicines Industry Group (EMIG).

The conference was opened by Paul Gershlick, PING Chair and Partner/Head of Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences at VWV, who said: "There is no bigger issue facing everyone than Brexit. In light of the uncertainty and challenges, the conference provided much insight and information to pharma businesses. Given the current uncertain circumstances, the messages were encouraging and we hope to see a bright future for pharma and life sciences in the UK and in co-operation with our European neighbours."

Paul Witcombe, Head of Enterprise & Innovation at Hertfordshire LEP, who made an introductory address, said: “We were delighted to once again sponsor PING’s annual conference which is now a key event in the life sciences calendar in Hertfordshire. This year’s conference on Brexit was particularly pertinent as we begin to draft a Local Industrial Strategy that really plays to Hertfordshire’s strengths and future-proofs the county against micro and macro uncertainties.

“PING is the only platform of any significance that can help us deliver a strategy which has the growth and development of the life sciences sector at its heart. Our ongoing collaboration with PING and other key sector partners will help us to develop a route-map for Hertfordshire’s economy with real drive, energy and innovation.”

EMIG Chair Leslie Galloway gave an overview of the different routes that Brexit may take, and said: "Businesses, particularly healthcare businesses, thrive on certainty and the last almost three years have undermined their ability to invest and grow. Hopefully soon, we will be able to deal with those challenges head on."

Key highlights from the conference below:

Regulatory Plan and Changes

NSF Pharma Biotech's Executive Director Dr Peter Gough, presented the likely regulatory impact on the trade in medicines between the UK and EU post-Brexit, including:

• necessary changes to marketing authorisations
• the site of QC testing and QP certification
• the impact on clinical trials

After explaining the different approaches that the UK and EU are taking in terms of mutual recognition, Dr Gough said: "It is hoped that regulators in UK and EU will put patients first and adopt pragmatic positions regarding the application and regulations."

Immigration

Despite Brexit uncertainty, the Pharma and Life Sciences sector still relies heavily on highly skilled research and development roles, with a large proportion being sourced from EU countries and further afield. It is ever more imperative to prepare for the UK's future.

Tom Brett Young, Head of VWV's specialist Immigration team, said: "For future planning, Tier 2 sponsorship is a key part of the immigration system…those without a sponsor licence should consider applying for one now, and those who already have one should ensure that it is fully compliant and not at risk of being revoked."

Retail Pharmacy and Stockpiling

Gareth Jones, Head of Corporate Affairs at the National Pharmacy Association, addressed Brexit concerns from a retail pharmacy perspective around what happens with the Falsified Medicines Directive, stockpiling, shortages and security issues, and said: "community pharmacists will do everything they can to support patients and maintain continuity of supply during Brexit, but as with other sectors there remain concerns about supply chains, availability of staff and access to EU databases."

European Perspective

Experienced Germany-based Professor Dr Christian Dierks of Dierks + Company provided an EU perspective, explaining how the German pharma industry saw Brexit. He gave a very warm expression of his and others' feelings about the UK. It was very clear from his presentation that they wanted to have continued close relations.

In an uplifting presentation, Christian Dierks said: “pharma on both sides of the channel will suffer from Brexit, with or without a deal. We can mitigate these effects with resilience, pragmatism and cooperation…creating solutions that overcome regulatory burdens to focus on patient care.”

Parallel Trade

Richard Freudenberg, Secretary-General of British Association of European Pharmaceutical Distributors (BAEPD), discussed parallel trade between the UK and Europe, concluding that: "many business sectors are suffering from the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Few however have had to endure the existential threat that parallel traders have experienced since the referendum. Now at least we have been able to establish from recent Government guidance that in virtually whichever political outcome results, we can look forward with security to the continuation of our business."

Tax

VAT, customs and tax implications for trade with Europe and the rest of the world post-Brexit were also discussed, with Richard Turner and Alistair Winning from FTI Consulting highlighting "the tax implications as a consequence of Brexit should, on the whole, be manageable. However, if there is a need to change the supply chain, it is important that the tax is considered at an early stage."

For more information about the Pharmaceutical Industry Network Group (PING) and Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences Law, please contact Paul Gershlick on 01923 919 320 or at pgershlick@vwv.co.uk.