Drug bottlenecks are increasingly becoming a problem. More and more important resources are not available. Hans-Peter Hubmann from the Association of Pharmacists speaks of a significant problem. These are the reasons for the delivery bottlenecks.
There is a drug problem – from fever juice to cancer drugs. According to the German Association of Pharmacists, medicines are not available in Germany more and more frequently and for longer. “More than 250 agents are currently reported as not being available for delivery,” said the association’s vice-chairman, Hans-Peter Hubmann, of the German Press Agency before the World Patient Safety Day, which was celebrated on Saturday. “The problem is very important, you have to say that clearly.”
“There are always delivery bottlenecks because a producer fails, but the amount and length of the failure has become much more dramatic,” said Hubmann. Five years ago, less than half as many products were affected. There are problems not only with niche products, but also common remedies for high blood pressure and diabetes or painkillers such as ibuprofen were not available at times.
For some drugs there is no alternative
While in many cases an alternative drug with the same or a similar active ingredient can be found with some effort, sometimes there is no alternative that can be offered to the patient. “In April and May we had an absolute shortage of the breast cancer drug tamoxifen,” reported Hubmann. A risk for the women affected: “You never know when the time bomb will go off, so your health is at risk there.”
According to Hubmann, the causes are varied, but two stand out: “On the one hand, there is the reduction in production diversity in Europe.” Almost all suppliers stopped producing fever juice because the production was no longer economical due to the fixed prices and the pressure from the tills. “Now there’s another one, and he can’t shoulder the crowd.”
Active ingredient production to go back to Europe
“The other cause is supply chain breaks,” said Hubmann. The active ingredients are now mainly manufactured in the Far East, especially in China and India. If factories are closed there because of Corona or freighters are no longer allowed to call at the ports, even those finished medicines that are manufactured in Europe will ultimately be missing from the shelves of local pharmacies. Sometimes supplies could also not be used due to contamination.
“That’s why we’ve been demanding for a long time that the active ingredient production must take place in Europe again,” emphasized Hubmann. Politicians urgently need to create the conditions for this. But even if approval procedures went through more quickly, the cost pressure was reduced and production in Europe became more profitable again – “that doesn’t happen overnight”. Hubmann said it would take at least five to ten years for the appropriate structures to be set up.