In March, the European Union (EU) will propose amending laws governing pharmaceuticals to require increasing stocks of essential medicines and offering more timely notifications of shortages, Reuters reports.
Yesterday, Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety, told the European Parliament that the proposal was spurred by growing antibiotic shortages. Twenty-six of the 27 EU countries have reported shortages to the European Medicines Agency amid an early surge of respiratory infections this fall.
"Our objective is and remains to secure access to medicines for all patients in need and to avoid any market disruption of medicines in the EU," Kyriakides said.
Exercising all options
EU legislators told the European Parliament that the shortages were urgent, but some experts told Reuters that shortfalls of essential generic drugs such as antibiotics were unlikely to be resolved because of the outsourcing of generic manufacturing to Asia.
Kyriakides said the EU is using all available regulatory options and is asking drug companies to boost production. She also said that the Health Emergency and Preparedness and Response Authority, the EU's health crisis group established in response to COVID-19, could help source drugs and medical supplies on behalf of member states.
Our objective is and remains to secure access to medicines for all patients in need and to avoid any market disruption.
Also yesterday, Supply Management reported that European countries have started stockpiling essential medicines and taking other mitigation measures.
Earlier this month, Greece banned the export of drugs after it found that pharmaceutical firms were importing drugs into the country at low prices before marking them up and exporting them again, leading to internal shortages. France also outlawed the online sale of the over-the-counter painkiller paracetamol (acetaminophen) to ensure availability of the drug in retail stores.