Here we go! £28bn India trade deal to boost NHS, slash red tape and fend off next pandemic

Boris Johnson: 'No question' Indian skills can make a difference

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson headed to New Delhi this week to strike what could be a landmark £28billion trade deal with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While the two nations look to deepen ties across areas ranging from energy to defence, CEO of the British Generic Manufacturers Association Mark Samuels told that the UK health sector could be poised for a major win.

He explained that a free trade deal with India “really matters” because of its supply relationship with the NHS, noting that a third of generic medicines in the UK come from India.

Mr Samuels said: “A free trade deal gives us a chance to look at that more strategically and to strengthen that.”

And one of the ways this could be done is by slashing red tape which would rapidly accelerate the amount of time it would take for these medicines to be supplied to the UK.

Mr Samuels explained: “When a medicine is made it has to be checked for quality and the standards need to be extremely high and they are set by the MHRA (industry regulator).

“But that level of testing can be done in India and the MHRA (industry regulator) does sometimes go over for India for testing.

“But provided the regulatory standard are high and are regulated by the MHRA, there is no reason to duplicate that testing, and that would knock a month off (medicines getting supplied to the UK).

“Reducing red tape would knock a month off the transport time for those medicines to get to the NHS, so it (a trade deal) is really important.”

Mr Samuels argues that with this reduction in the inefficiency of the approval of manufacturing and export licensing for controlled drugs, the NHS will be able to access these medicines far quicker.

He also argues that a trade deal could be used to speed up raw material imports.

And Mr Samuels believes that a medicines mutual recognition agreement would bolster UK-India trade.

Last year, the UK exported £137.7million of medicines and pharmaceuticals, and Mr Samuels expects that this figure could grow under a new deal.

And he added that an important part of a strengthened relationship with India could be used to help to fight against the next pandemic.

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He said: “There will always be another new virus and we need to make sure that we have the right agility in the supply chain.

“We need to make sure that this manufacturing industry is healthy and well supported in the UK.

“Running out of a medicine is always horrific and you always want to avoid a shortage.

“It (a trade deal with India) is really important as the NHS gets a third of its generic medicine from India. 

“My member companies are finding it increasingly challenging to get shipping containers from India into the UK, so having a strategy around that would be a very practical and immediate help to the NHS’s medicine supply.”

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