Intended for healthcare professionals


NHS and drug prices could be included in US-UK trade deal, leaked documents suggest

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 27 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6723

Linked Opinion

Is the NHS “on the table” after Brexit? Looking beyond the soundbites

  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

The NHS and drug patents have been part of ongoing post-Brexit trade negotiations between the US and the UK, leaked unredacted documents obtained and shared by the Labour Party have shown.

The six documents outline “secret talks” held between US trade representatives and the UK Department for International Trade from July 2017 to July 2019. They include discussions on a variety of trade topics including drug pricing, longer patents for US drug companies, and the potential to discuss the NHS “further down the line.”

Earlier this month academics warned that, if the UK loses its ability to negotiate drug prices or to import generic drugs under a trade agreement with the US after Brexit, the NHS’s drug bill could soar from £18bn (€21bn; $23.2bn) to £45bn a year.1

The news that the talks between the UK and the US included drug pricing and the NHS comes after England’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, repeatedly said that “the NHS is not for sale and never will be under this Conservative administration.”2 Less than two hours before the documents were released, the prime …

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