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Medicine shortages in the EU: causes and solutions

19 September 2020 19:00, Stanimir Petkov
Emission of: Tuida News 5 months ago, number of readings: 150
Combatting medicine shortages in the EU

The Covid-19 health crisis has highlighted a growing problem: shortages of medicines and medical equipment that put patients at risk and national health systems under pressure.

In April 2020, the European University Hospital Alliance warned that rising demand in intensive care units for certain anaesthetics, antibiotics, muscle relaxants and medicines used in a way they were not originally approved for to treat Covid-19 could mean stocks run out.

Decreased production, logistical problems, export bans and stockpiling due to the health crisis further increased the risk of bottlenecks.

On 17 September, Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the EU to become more self-sufficient in health issues by securing supplies, restoring local drug manufacturing and ensuring better EU coordination of national health strategiess.


What causes medicine shortages?

Between 2000 and 2018, shortages in the EU increased 20-fold and according to a note by the European Commission are rising for widely used essential products.


What solutions is Parliament proposing?

In the resolution MEPs welcome the new EU health programme EU4Health aiming to make medicines and medical equipment more available and call for boosting pharmaceutical production in Europe and setting minimum quality standards for healthcare.


They also want to:

introduce financial incentives to encourage producers of active pharmaceutical ingredients to locate in Europe and to screen foreign direct investment in manufacturing plant,

create an EU contingency reserve of medicines of strategic importance, which would function as an emergency European pharmacy, reducing the risk of shortages

exchange best practices in stock management

increase joint EU procurement of medicines

facilitate the movement of medicines between EU member states

Parliament had already called for better traceability of research and development costs, public funding and market expenditure to make medicines more affordable in a resolution adopted in 2017.

The Commission issued guidelines to tackle shortages due to the coronavirus outbreak in April. It called on EU countries to lift export bans and avoid stockpiling; increase and reorganise production; ensure optimal use in hospitals by reallocating stocks; consider alternative medicines; and optimise sales in pharmacies.


An EU Pharmaceutical Strategy

The resolution calls on the Commission to address the issue of medicine availability, accessibility and affordability, as well as import dependency in the upcoming EU pharmaceutical strategy.