Status: 24.09.2023, 19:00 p.m.
By: Laura Knops
There will probably be drug shortages again this year. According to experts, the problems in the supply of medicines can hardly be solved despite the measures taken by the Federal Ministry of Health.
Already last year, there were bottlenecks in the supply of medicines as part of a large wave of infections. In particular, fever and cough syrups for children were only available to a limited extent, but the supply was also limited in other areas. Although the Federal Ministry of Health promised emergency measures in the spring and wanted to counteract a shortage at an early stage, the supply of medicines seems to be problematic this autumn and winter as well. The availability of medicines could become scarce again in the coming months. Patients must therefore be prepared for the fact that with the cooler temperatures and more infections, many standard medicines will become scarce again.
Short-term measures have had little success
Large pharmaceutical companies are already reporting tight stocks of essential medicines. Experts therefore fear further drug shortages in autumn and winter. © Roman Möbius/Imago
In the spring, the Federal Ministry of Health tried to take legal countermeasures with emergency measures. For example, health insurance companies have been encouraged not only to enter into contracts with the cheapest drug manufacturers, who are often based outside the EU. Pharmacies should be made easier to import antibiotic juices for children that are not approved in Germany. In addition, some medicines should be stocked more generously.
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"The facilitated import conditions were good and brought us out of the grey area, at least legally, and the communication measures of the Federal Ministry of Health with the players in the healthcare sector (regular on-site meetings at the ministry) were also very good and helpful," explains Dr. Torsten Hoppe-Tichy, head of the hospital pharmacy at Heidelberg University Hospital to the Science Media Center (SMC). Nevertheless, the medicines already seem to be in short supply: Last week, the pharmaceutical wholesaler reported that the stocks for important medicines were "less than two weeks".
Drug crisis in autumn and winter? Supply bottlenecks difficult to prevent
In order to be equipped in an emergency, doctors recommend parents in particular to refill the medicine cabinet in normal household quantities. In autumn and winter, emergency services can be relieved, especially on weekends, when parents can take care of their children themselves. However, experts do not see private inventories as a long-term solution. "Honestly, I don't know how we're going to get a grip on the situation. This can be seen in the actions of the Minister of Health, which are very panic-driven," says Prof. Dr. Ulrike Holzgrabe, Senior Professor of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry at the Institute of Pharmacy and Food Chemistry at the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg, assessing the current situation.
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"Instead of at least talking to the basic suppliers, the generic drug manufacturers, Karl Lauterbach is trying to buy the market short. From the point of view of German patients, this may be a solution, but all other Europeans need the same medicines on this so-called emergency list. This will therefore lead to cut-throat competition," continues Prof. Dr. Ulrike Holzgrabe.
"We need sufficient stocks from manufacturers and wholesalers, perhaps emergency stocks of critical medicines based on the Swiss model. In the long term, we need the support of an EU-based manufacturing pharmaceutical industry, taking into account that there is a win-win situation and that there is no one-sided increase in return on sales in pharmaceuticals," says Dr. Torsten Hoppe-Tichy.
This article contains only general information on the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. It is in no way a substitute for a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, individual questions about clinical pictures may not be answered by our editors.