Health officials have banned profiteers from exporting paracetamol and other common drugs in a bid to protect Britons during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it had banned the “parallel export” of a number of essential drugs. Parallel exporting occurs when companies buy medicines meant for UK patients and sell them on for a higher price in another country.
The move, which can cause supply problems, has been banned for 80 “crucial” medicines including adrenaline, insulin, paracetamol and morphine, the DHSC said.
Health officials said the measures are aimed at protecting supplies of crucial treatments used in intensive care units and also in demand in pharmacies.
Companies that parallel export a medicine on the ban list may face enforcement action from watchdogs and could lose their trading licence for serious breaches.
Officials said the drugs are in high demand across Europe as health bodies work to battle coronavirus.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “Our brilliant NHS staff are going above and beyond to provide world-class care to patients with coronavirus, and we are supporting them in every way we can.
“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.”
It comes as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it was developing a series of rapid guidelines to help doctors and nurses know the best course of treatment for patients.
Officials said the Government will keep the situation under review and consider adding more medicines to the parallel export ban list if necessary.
A ban has already been placed on parallel export of two antiviral medicines currently being tested to treat coronavirus in a bid to ensure the drugs are available to tackle the virus if they are found to work.
The medicines are ritonavir/lopinavir (brand name Kaletra), a medicine to treat HIV, and chloroquine, a medicine to treat or prevent malaria.