February 21. 2024. 7:42

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French health body recommends EU make joint purchases to plug drug shortages

Brussels could make joint purchases of drugs to prevent future shortages in France and the rest of the EU, the national health authority said during a hearing in the Senate on Thursday.

“The problem [of drug shortages, editor’s note] is general, and management at the European level has a better chance of being effective,” Dominique Le Guludec, the president of the high health authority, told senators of the Commission of Inquiry on drug shortages.

For the purchase of medicines in specific situations, Le Gudulec referred to the role of HERA, the EU’s new health emergency response agency.

Drugs stocks missing is not a French case but a “general problem” at the EU level, stressing the importance of the “European collaboration between member states”.

While the phenomenon of drug shortages is not new, it became more acute this winter due to the resurgence of respiratory viruses and illnesses like COVID-19, influenza and bronchiolitis.

“European physicians are deeply concerned about the increasing shortages of medicines in the short and long term. We call on the European Union to take urgent action,” said the Standing Committee of European Doctors in January.

In Italy, for example, the Medicines Agency (AIFA) reported a shortage of more than 3,000 medicines, of which 554 are out of stock.

On the French side, the authority’s president also emphasised the role of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in managing the crisis and dialogue with the pharmaceutical industry, while problems related to the manufacture of products are “increasingly frequent”.

In January, the EMA said it had met with stakeholders in the supply chains of amoxicillin, an antibiotic that is experiencing shortages, to “provide regulatory support to increase production capacity”.

So far in Europe, three plants, two in France and one in Austria, have returned to producing drugs such as paracetamol and amoxicillin.

“Europe would be stronger in imposing a number of constraints on industry” than if member countries tried to manage shortages at the national level, Le Guludec concluded.

(Clara Bauer-Babef | EURACTIV.fr)