New EU rules could help to prevent future medicine shortages

In the last few years, the European Union has faced significant shortages of some types of drugs and medical equipment. Since the start of the pandemic, the Commission has reported a jump in the number of supply issues, and there’s been a steady increase since the year 2000. 

A report released in 2021 by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) highlighted the need for more action to deal with medical shortages, particularly since over half of the shortages are for essential purposes like cancer treatment.

To address this problem, the EU has announced a new package of reforms to the EU’s pharmaceutical rules that will give the industry more responsibilities. The rules will also enhance the security of medical supplies by allowing the EMA to take a more active role in the process. 

The new rules were announced earlier in the week and aim to make the medical system in Europe crisis-resistant. The European Medicine Agency will take an increased role and there will be more EU-wide coordination to safeguard medicine availability. 

Even simple medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen become more challenging to find for many Europeans last winter due to higher rates of flu and other viruses. 

The EU hopes to make sure this isn’t repeated by reducing systemic shortages throughout the year, not just in times of a public health crisis or higher rates of infection. 

EU Health Commissioner Kyriakides told lawmakers in the European Parliament’s Environment and Health Committee (ENVI) after the package’s presentation: “We need to look at the security of supply and address shortages at all times and going beyond the crisis. 

The reason we have shortages are due to many different variables. It’s not one, and this is what came out also in the work that we were doing.”

The EU plans to address supply chain issues by creating a list of drugs that are essential for public health and ensuring everyone has access to them with a variety of monitoring tools. There will also be more obligations for manufacturers, including shortage prevention plans and stricter rules for notifying the EU about potential shortages. 

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