Could stockpiling medicines lead to EU-wide shortages? 

A coalition of six EU member states has issued a warning against the massive stockpiling of medicines by some countries, cautioning that such practices could lead to significant shortages in other parts of the European Union.

Ahead of the EU Health Council meeting this week, Czechia, Cyprus, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia signed a non-paper highlighting the negative impact of excessive national stockpiling on the EU’s single market and principles of solidarity.

While acknowledging the right of individual countries to secure medicine supplies for their populations, the signatories stressed that extreme measures could disrupt the balance within the EU. The document also points out that a year ago, EU states supported the creation of a voluntary solidarity mechanism to tackle acute medicine shortages.

It states: “Before this solidarity mechanism could be tested in practice, several Member States have recently implemented national measures that may contradict the solidarity principle and potentially cause secondary unavailability of medicines through excessive stockpiling strategies.”

To address this, the non-paper calls for several actions. It urges the European Commission to quickly propose recommendations for national stockpile strategies and for states with existing stockpiling measures to re-evaluate them based on these recommendations, in line with European solidarity. States currently preparing their stockpiling strategies should also consider these recommendations.

It also calls for member states to openly share their stockpiling intentions on relevant platforms and for the Commission to assess whether the adopted national stockpiling measures comply with EU law.

In Germany, health insurance companies are tendering and contracting pharmaceutical firms to secure medicine supplies at reasonable prices. A new law passed last year requires companies entering these tenders to maintain a minimum stockpile equivalent to six months’ average demand.

Czech deputy minister Dvořáček stated that Czechia has been in contact with German authorities to discuss the issue. Germany claims that its stockpiling measures will not adversely affect the markets, but this assurance has not alleviated the concerns of potentially affected member states.

Dvořáček said: “We would like to see EU-level recommendations on how to proceed with stockpiling – that is the easiest thing to do now,” he said. He also highlighted the need for discretion in stockpiling plans to align with the production capacity of pharmaceutical companies.

Medicines for Europe, an industry group representing generic and biosimilar medicine manufacturers, has also expressed concerns about extensive national stockpiling requirements. Their recent report argues that such measures have unintended consequences, potentially worsening the problems they aim to solve.

According to Medicines for Europe, the additional costs and complexities for manufacturers reduce the economic viability of low-price or low-volume medicines, exacerbating market consolidation, increasing the risk of shortages, and threatening patient access to medications. 

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