Brexit. Who would have thought back in 2016 that such a simple, six-letter portmanteau would go on to incite such impassioned responses from most everyone you meet? Yet here we are, two and a half years later, no more certain of the UK’s future than we ever were, with tensions high, confidence low, and both Remainers and Leavers claiming “project fear” is out to sabotage the constitutio, the British people and our chances of prospering.
Alas, this is not a political denigration of Brexit. This article is an objective insight into how Brexit is affecting and could further affect people with diabetes. And unfortunately, the truth is that we don’t really know what the truth is.
The diabetes community has asked us for months for updates on Brexit, and what our departure from the EU will mean for our medication, food availability, hospital care, health benefits and general quality of life. But, quite simply, the rapid day-to-day developments that grip Westminster and Brussels mean that opining an educated evergreen response is challenging; Brexit updates often exist in a vacuum, then the day after something happens that requires another reactionary update, and so on and so on…
The primary reason you likely clicked on this article is to find out ‘will Brexit affect my insulin availability?’ As someone with type 1 diabetes myself, I too share this concern. What we know for certain is that Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, two of the three main pharmaceutical manufacturers people in the UK receive their insulin from, have pledged that 16 and 14 weeks of insulin, respectively, will be stockpiled. Eli Lilly, the third main manufacturer, is also holding back several months’ worth.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit which could potentially cause problems at the Dover-Calais border, there is of course concern that insulin access could be delayed. The government has since urged people with diabetes, healthcare professionals and pharmacies not to stockpile insulin, claiming their ongoing cooperation with drug manufacturers as cause for reassurance. The government has requested that drug manufacturers ensure a minimum of six weeks’ supply of stockpiled insulin.
I spoke recently with a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk to seek more light on the issue, who said:
“Our no-deal Brexit preparations are robust. Novo Nordisk is working closely with the NHS and Department of Health to ensure patients are unaffected no matter of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Our primary concern is, and always will be, to our patients who need our life saving medicines and treatments.”
Last week, type 1 diabetes charity JDRF issued a statement that it is working with the Department of Health and Social Care to ease the transition for people with type 1 diabetes in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Suffice to say, there are a lot of companies invested in ensuring people with diabetes aren’t left without vital medication when Brexit, in whichever form it transpires, finally occurs.
So, what about how food supplies may be affected? Reported foot shortages from a prospective no-deal are worrying, particularly for those who eat a strict diet designed to keep blood glucose levels lower – such as those who eat low carb diets as a means of requiring less medication.
Earlier today Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federatio, warned Prime Minister Theresa May that a no-deal could have “catastrophic” effects, and that the industry is unprepared for a hard Brexit. It is therefore unsurprising that a number of Brexit survival-themed boxes are available online, packs which include 30 days’ worth of freeze-dried food.
There are of course cross-party MPs and workers of all different industries who favour a no-deal Brexit. They will tell you there is nothing to worry about regarding food supplies. And they may be right. We will be following events related to Brexit and food supplies over the coming weeks.
The state of Brexit and its implications is undeniably uncertain. To claim with ill-deserved confidence that there either will or won’t be any effects on people with diabetes is naïve at present. But there are good people, some elected MPs, some businesspersons, some grassroots campaigners and some charities who are fighting to restrict Brexit’s impact upon the diabetes community.
At Diabetes.co.uk we are continually assessing Brexit developments and will report again when there is a salient update. In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding your medication, diet or prescriptions then visit your GP, or alternatively contact your local MP for questions about how Brexit could impact your community.