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Is the Coronavirus Causing Medicine Shortages?

on Tuesday, 24 March 2020.

The European Medicines Agency has issued a statement to show that it is closely monitoring the impact of the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) on the pharmaceutical supply chain within Europe.

There have been concerns over panic buying of certain over-the-counter medicines by consumers, as well as whether the supply chain would be adversely affected by the lockdown in China and measures taken in India and elsewhere to beat coronavirus.

However, as of recently, the EU's medicines regulator did not yet have any reports of medicine shortages in Europe due to the outbreak. However, the position is fluid, so it wants to be on top of things. It has emphasised that as the situation escalates, shortages or disruptions cannot be excluded.

A Steering Group on medicine shortages has come together to discuss measures with the objective of reducing the impact of the outbreak of the coronavirus on pharmaceutical supply chains.

The EMA says that the group will identify and co-ordinate EU-wide action to protect patients when medicines are at risk of being in short supply such as due to temporary lock-downs of manufacturing sites or travel restrictions affecting shipments.

They say they will also update patients and healthcare professionals in a transparent way about the latest situation and of the steps being taken.

The EMA added that it is up to pharma companies to ensure continuity of supply, including having appropriate resilience measures such as by increasing stocks or having more than one source of products and materials.

The EMA has asked pharma to become more aware of the impact of quarantine measures such as in China and has reminded them of their duties to report shortages to the regulators.

The statement can be read on the EMA website.

Could the Situation Change?

These are concerning times, but it is encouraging to hear of this action that is being taken to address and pre-empt medicine supply shortages. Supply shortages are not unusual in the pharma supply chain, so the players are well used to monitoring, planning and alleviating their effects. There were concerns over supply shortages linked to Brexit, on top of other shortages that had already been in existence in the pharma supply chain. This issue impacts everyone from suppliers through to distributors and retail pharmacy. The coronavirus outbreak is another possible cause of shortages, but it is encouraging to hear that so far things are holding up.

If you have any thoughts on this issue, please share them with Paul Gershlick in our Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences team on 01923 919 320, or complete the form below.


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