AS Brexit continues to grip the nation, people are urging the discussions to shift to a lesser-thought-of subject - what happens to your medications if we leave the EU?

Pharmacies across the country are already displaying signs informing patients they may not have the medications they need - and no end is in sight for the shortages.

An array of medicines are sporadically in stock, and they aren’t ‘obscure’ drugs that are rarely used.

Wellington resident Angela Boyd, who is currently battling cancer, voiced concerns for the healthcare system in the face of Brexit about the availability of her medications.

She said: “As a cancer patient with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, on second line treatment, I asked my consultant haematologist whether the Imbruvica capsules I am taking, which are manufactured in Belgium, would still be available after a no deal Brexit.

"She had no answer.

“How many other cancer patients are in this situation whereby their life-saving treatments may stop mid-course?

“Are there thousands or millions and would the palliative care facilities be sufficient to cope with a boom of cancer patients?

“In Taunton Deane, would there be enough palliative carers for the many cancer and other patients who will die as a result of Brexit - or, as I fully expect for myself, will they die alone at home?”

Experienced pharmacist Max Punni, who runs 11 pharmacies, eight of which are in Somerset, said he’s never known such an ‘unfortunate set of circumstances’ come together at once to cause such high levels of anxiety and disruption.

He said: “We are reliant on lots of European staff. Across our chain, half the staff are Eastern European.

“We’ve got a good cross section of the county, in towns and villages, so we have a good idea of what is going on.

“The amount of out of stock drugs, and it’s not even obscure items.

“For example hormone replacement treatment. Every week I have at least half a dozen women either in tears or close to tears because we can’t get it.

“Due to cuts the NHS is battered. Admin type functions are slow anyway but if you put in a request to the GP for an alternative medication, that request can sit on a desk for weeks.

“Not only that but certain drugs are only available sporadically, there’s no certainty when we will get things in. Then, all at once, we will be sent a lot.

“That’s when people think ‘grab it while you can’, but that’s not helpful.

“I don’t want to scaremonger or be political. I couldn’t give a monkeys about the politics, this is just what it’s like on the frontline.”

Mr Punni said while the supply and distribution network is very complex, it relies heavily on Europe, as medicines can be manufactured, packaged and repacked in many different countries.

He added: “Medication is usually number one on a person’s list of care. For a lot of people, it is life.

“It’s devastating and pretty ugly. There may be delays and uncertainty. But we will batten down the hatches and work together to keep the show on the road.

“People come in and ask for out-of-date drugs, and some people try to pay for them.

“Obviously, that would never be allowed but it just shows the level of anxiety.

“I’m not a fearful person, I know we will always find a way.”

Mr Punni added the problem may not be directly the fault of Brexit, but he could not think of any other reason.

Dawn Carey, a woman in her early 40s from North Petherton, is currently going through early menopause.

She’s on hormone replacement therapy, and is struggling to find a reliable source.

She says no ‘honest answers’ are being given, which prevents patients from being able to move on with their care.

She said: “Once you start taking a medication it takes a couple of months to work. But I found a tablet and we tweaked the dosage and I got a repeat prescription.

“But when I went to get it refilled, it took five attempts driving around to pharmacies across Somerset to find it.

“Then I found Max and he told me this wouldn’t be the last time it happened with this drug, so he recommended I find an alternative.

“So I got a doctor’s appointment and changed my prescription, but the same thing happened again.

“Every time you change your medication, your symptoms return. It’s not just hot flushes, it’s things like brain fog and extreme tiredness.

“I’ve got a few weeks left of my current prescription, and I am really worried.

“We keep being told it’s a manufacturing problem, but they aren’t telling us the truth.

“It’s absolutely to do with Brexit.

“They are impacting on our mental wellbeing as well as our physical health.”

Even if a patient can get a new prescription, there’s never a guarantee the medication will be available, said Ms Carey.

Your County Gazette asked Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, Public Health England South West, NHS England South West, and the Taunton and Somerset NHS Partnership Trust about their preparations for Brexit.

None of the organisations agreed to comment in time for publication.

The NHS England national guidelines state the Government is working closely with the NHS to ensure medications will still be available in ‘all scenarios’.

It does admit there may be ‘temporary shortages’, and if this does happen, alternatives will be provided. But as Ms Carey has pointed out, that isn’t always a solution.