Anglo-Swedish biopharma company AstraZeneca’s non-executive chairman Leif Johansson has unveiled to French newspaper La Monde that the company will continue its freeze on manufacturing investments in Britain if uncertainty over Brexit continues.
Johansson told La Monde: “If a transition deal does not make clear what will happen in the future, we will maintain our decision not to invest.
“A Brexit agreement will need to ensure that Britain does not become an isolated island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said: “The chairman was talking about a decision announced over a year ago to freeze future investment in manufacturing. There has been no change to our investment plans in the UK.”
The company’s announcement coincided with another stall in Brexit negoatiations over the weekend, which has led experts to conclude that a final deal may be delayed to December.
This follows AstraZeneca’s announcement in July that it had started stockpiling drugs in preparation for Brexit in both the UK and Central European countries. The company has spent £40m so far on planning for Brexit.
The stockpiling of drugs by pharma companies has been encouraged by the UK Government. In August, Secretary of Health and Social Care Matt Hancock wrote a letter to the pharma industry, which included the government’s guidelines regarding stockpiling medicines.
Hancock also separately informed GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals that they should not start stockpiling medicines in case of a no-deal Brexit and instead rely on pharmaceutical companies.
Anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain has warned that stockpiling six weeks’ worth of medicines could cost up to £2bn based on data from healthcare think tank King’s Fund in April this year.
AstraZeneca is not the only company moving its investment away from the UK over Brexit uncertainty.
Earlier in October, Recardio announced it was halting its UK activities, primarily stopping recruiting of participants for a clinical trial for its drug dutogliptin, due to concerns about how Brexit would affect the approval of medicines.