Medicine shortages are worsening in France

Stocks of some medicines are increasing. Despite constraints on producers to provide emergency stocks, government measures are considered insufficient.

The shortage of medicines, very present in the recent news, has been worrying for years, but it is increasing and now affects widely consumed medicines.

Which drugs are affected?

For several months, the health authorities have been reporting supply difficulties for several drugs. Two have particularly caught the eye, given their widespread use: acetaminophen, a painkiller ubiquitous in medicine cabinets, and amoxicillin, by far the most commonly administered antibiotic to children.

As for paracetamol, the concerns date back to the summer. The drug agency (ANSM) has asked pharmacists to avoid selling more than two boxes per patient, even if the manufacturers ensure that their production is sufficient to meet the needs.

For amoxicillin, it is in its syrupy form – intended for children – that the ANSM reported supply difficulties last week. The difficulties of recent months are not limited to these two drugs. Tensions on several antidiabetic drugs were therefore reported in September.

“READ ALSO – Antibiotics: France fears a shortage of amoxicillin

Is it a new phenomenon?

No, but it’s getting worse, both in France and in many other countries. The shortages are a problem that authorities and the pharmaceutical industry admit they have had to deal with for some time.

However, the phenomenon is growing. In France, almost 2,500 risks of stock shortages – or proven shortages – were reported to the ANSM in 2020. It is a strong progression, even if the health authorities qualify it by evoking an optical effect: the law increasingly obliges producers to report the risk of deficiencies upstream.

But there are also confirmed breakups. “In 2021, 900 supply outages were reported during the year. There we are at 600 in one semester, so there is clearly a worsening of the situation”, underlined this weekend, in Ouest France, Thomas Borel, scientific director of Leem, the main French lobby for the pharmaceutical sector.

Why these difficulties?

There are fundamental reasons, and others more circumstantial, which aggravate the phenomenon. The former are linked to the globalization of drug production, a phenomenon which has become more pronounced in recent years, resulting in a breakdown of the different phases into several sites around the world. “In this context, in the event of a problem on the production chain (…), the risk of breakage is immediately very high”, explained Leem in 2019.

Recent news also contributes to the seizure of the car. The sector is penalized by inflation, partly linked to the outbreak of geopolitical tensions following the war in Ukraine. This context affects, for example, access to raw materials or energy costs of companies.

“READ ALSO – Pharmaceutical companies sound the alarm

Finally, even if the Covid is still there, the epidemic is calming down and other diseases are returning after being slowed down by confinements and other health restrictions. This is the argument put forward by the French authorities to explain the shortage of amoxicillin: according to them, producers have been caught off guard by a sharp rebound in demand.

What solutions?

In the immediate future, health authorities are in crisis management. They ration the quantities available in pharmacies, they call doctors and patients to discernment. For an antibiotic such as amoxicillin, they are thus reminded that it has no interest against a viral disease such as bronchiolitis, in the midst of an epidemic in infants.

In France, manufacturers are also forced to provide minimum safety stocks for some medicines. But the industry, like some critical observers, points out that these measures fail to address the root causes of the problem.

The need for a delocalization of production finds relatively consensus in speeches, from the government to industrialists via analysts, but its extent is debated. The government has already taken financial incentive measures to “repatriate all these industries that produce these essential medicines,” Health Minister François Braun recalled this weekend.

For some, however, the government is far from ambitious enough. The Observatory on Transparency in Drug Policies, marked on the left, therefore calls for a massive relocation, even a public production of drugs.

As for the pharmaceutical sector, he assures us of his good will in terms of relocation, but points out the greater weight of regulations in Europe. He also believes that the French public health system is certainly not an incentive by imposing low selling prices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *