The government has banned the parallel export of more than 80 drugs to protect the national supply of key medicines.

From Friday, companies that parallel export high-demand drugs — including insulin, paracetamol and morphine — risk having their trading licence revoked, alongside other enforcement action from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The decision is intended to shore up the UK’s medicine stocks in the face of increased demand and disrupted supply caused by the covid-19 outbreak.

Parallel exporting refers to buying medicines in the UK to sell to another country in the European Economic Area for a higher price.

Health minister Lord Bethell said: “We are today banning the parallel export of more than 80 crucial medicines to protect patients in the UK and help ensure they can always get the treatments they need.”

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry director, Rick Greville, praised the move, telling HSJ: “It is important at this time that critical medicines intended for patients in the UK remain available to UK patients, and that demand does not outstrip supply.

“Today’s restriction in the parallel export of medicines is helpful as it stops the leakage of important medicines out of the UK for financial gain. Equally important it does not restrict the export of medicines manufactured in the UK from satisfying the supply demands of other countries.”

Ethical Medicines Industry Group chairman Leslie Galloway added: “This is a time when critical challenges require critical actions and we need to protect our population - those who are sick and those who may become so.”

Updated at 9.50am on 23rd March 2020 with comment from Rick Greville and Leslie Galloway.