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After 3 years, drugmakers are tired of Brexit—but they’re ready for it

Pinder Sahota has a list, and he is checking it twice. As the U.K. lurches toward Brexit, the Novo Nordisk scientist has become a logistics expert to ensure there is no break in the insulin supply chain when the separation finally happens.

The company has tripled its warehouse capacity and stuffed it with 3.8 million packs of insulin, enough to last more than four months. New routes have been plotted to avoid the ports and crossings expected to be the most congested, Sahota explained to Reuters.

The world’s largest insulin maker has tried to anticipate anything that might go wrong but hopes that it won’t.

We’re preparing for the worst-case scenario, the most extreme,” Sahota, Novo’s general manager in the U.K., told the news service. 

Britain has already missed two deadlines for giving up its European credentials, buying more time to work out details. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, is focused on having it happen Oct. 31 whether separation protocols have been hammered out or not.

Pharma products like insulin and vaccines that require temperature control and can come with short shelf lives pose the biggest challenges for drugmakers and patients, but the preparations have played out throughout the industry. They are born of necessity and backed by requirements from regulators that know there will be issues moving millions of doses of medicines in both directions. 

Sanofi executive Hugo Fry tells Reuters that the drugmaker has created layers of contingencies.

“In the case of pharmaceuticals, you can’t just throw things onto a boat or a lorry, you have to test and validate these routes into the country,” Fry said. 

Drugmakers have scrambled for warehouse space and plotted the best routes. CDMOs and drug testing companies have set up new facilities either in the U.K. or in Europe to help clients meet regulations and supply demands on both sides of the coming divide. It has been a costly undertaking that is absolutely necessary but which only sucks time and tens of millions of dollars away from what they consider their missions. 

“Although we are happy to do it, it is starting to weigh on our balance sheet, on our logistics, keeping all this additional stock in the country,” Fry tells the news service. “It’s not an ideal situation.”