EU Prepares for Drug Shortages Due to COVID-19

As COVID-19 (coronavirus) disruptions delay drug and medical supply shipments from Asia, health-care officials in Europe are preparing to handle escalating drug shortages.

According to a senior official from the European Union (EU) Commission, the EU is assessing the delays. France sources about 40% of its drug ingredients from China. India, the main supplier of generic medicines worldwide, also relies on ingredients from China and has restricted some drug exports.

The Commission says it has not yet seen shortages directly caused by the virus. However, among 24 EU countries surveyed at the end of last year, all had experienced drug shortages in 2019, with nearly all of them facing shortages of respiratory medications needed to treat pneumonia and other breathing issues caused by COVID-19. EU officials say face masks and other personal protective gear are in short supply as well, leaving medical staff particularly vulnerable to infections.

EU governments and health ministers are considering ways to combat the epidemic, including mobilizing retired medical staff and students. As of March 5, there were more than 4,000 cases across the EU.

Source: Reuters, March 5, 2020.