The UK’s medicine manufacturing industry is being given a £20m boost to help the response to future pandemics, the prime minister has announced.
NHS leaders and charities had been urging ministers to bring more drug manufacturing to the UK because of problems that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the first wave, there had been a strain on supplies of intensive care medicine, over the counter drugs and oxygen.
The new Medicines and Diagnostic Manufacturing Transformation Fund, which is being launched on Monday, is aimed at improving medicine supply chains and creating potentially thousands of skilled jobs.
UK companies will be encouraged to build new factories and use new technology so they can get ahead of global competitors.
Boris Johnson said the fund, which will be available from next year, will “significantly increase the capacity and resilience of our medicines and diagnostics manufacturing supply chains and equip us to fight future health crises”.
The UK currently exports around 45 million packets to the EU each month and imports 37 million.
There have been fears that supplies of crucial medicines, including treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, could be disrupted if there is a no-deal Brexit.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) previously told Sky News that additional cost, red-tape and possible delays could happen if no deal is agreed.
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Vaccine could be hit by Brexit delays
It comes at a time when the pharmaceutical industry is preparing to roll out multiple COVID-19 vaccines, if they are approved by regulators – a huge logistical challenge with just over a month to go before the end of the Brexit transition period.
The government says the new fund will ensure the UK’s supply chains are “even more resilient in the future”.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “There are huge opportunities for innovation in medicines and diagnostics, and this new fund will put the UK head and shoulders above others, boosting the UK’s capabilities and generating significant economic opportunities across the country.”