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Brussels drafts plans to avoid EU pharmaceutical shortages

Bottles of medicine ride on a conveyor belt
Bottles of medicine ride on a conveyor belt Copyright Julio Cortez/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Julio Cortez/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Gregoire Lory
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The European Commission presented a series of measures Tuesday to prevent future drug shortages, including the immediate launch of a voluntary EU-wide solidarity mechanism for medicines.

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The move comes following reports last winter of stockouts among pharmacies, with France's medicines safety agency recording over 3,700 reports of stockouts or risks of stockouts.

"For this winter, we're immediately setting up a new voluntary solidarity mechanism," the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides told reporters on Tuesday.

"This will enable any member states facing shortages to seek support from other member states who may be able to share medicines if they have a sufficient supply."

Didier Ronsyn, a pharmacist in Brussels welcomed the news and told Euronews that he is already facing issues solving drug shortages.

"Every day, we have to do research to try and keep track of patients' treatments. We also try to find alternatives when they are available," Ronsyn said.

"We try to help each other out if we can, and really, in the most complicated cases, we have to say 'no'. We have to refer back to the doctor so that he can change the treatment if necessary."

The Commission also intends to draw up a list of critical medicines by the end of the year, which according to Ancel·la Santos Quintano, a senior health policy officer from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), will be particularly important.

"It will be a useful tool because it should include medicines that meet priority healthcare needs and it will help facilitate and then the authorities can focus a bit more on these medicines, can analyse the supply chain, can identify vulnerabilities, can introduce measures to tackle those vulnerabilities," she told Euronews.

"Also, the idea is to have a bit more cooperation and reinforce cooperation and these critical medicines. And all these are measures that we value positively."

In the long term, the Commission wants to diversify its global supply chains through international partnerships with third countries, as well as strengthen production capacities in the manufacturing of critical drugs and active ingredients. 

However, it is keen to stress that the proposals do not signal the reindustrialisation of the European sector.

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