In times of crisis, shortages can be avoided with supply chain resilience
The Association of the European Self-Care Industry – AESGP – welcomes the European Parliament plenary approval of the Report on shortages of medicines – how to address an emerging problem, issued in the particularly sensitive time of a global health crisis, where it was crucial to have mechanisms in place to prevent and respond to potential shortages of medicines and medical devices.
AESGP acknowledges the balanced nature of the final document that recommends further study of the root-causes of shortages and, on another note, highlights the vital role of worldwide supply chains to ensure diversity of sources.
AESGP recognises that the document also refers to leadership and coordinated actions to be necessary during exceptional events, including flexibility of all actors involved, to prevent and mitigate supply disruptions within the EU and globally. Political and diplomatic action by the European Commission during the COVID-19 crisis proved to be effective in leveraging measures, both within the European Union and at the international level. Future supply interruptions and surges in demand will still need to be swiftly pinpointed to reverse the potential threat of shortages or to mitigate its impacts.
AESGP agrees that shortages are of particular concern when they affect medicines for which no or limited alternatives are available, and where interruption of supply will result in a potential risk to public health. In the case of non-prescription medicines, because substitution is possible and because alternatives exist in most situations, any shortage of a product will translate into little to no impact on the outcomes of self-care.
AESGP believes that securing a well-functioning global supply chain of pharmaceuticals should be the primary objective of the European response to address medicine shortages. Trade agreements or preferential treatment from supplying countries, ring fencing material goods for Europe, will go a long way in avoiding any future disruptions.
Lastly, AESGP would highlight that greater independence brought by onshoring manufacturing and production of certain non-prescription medicines and APIs, as part of the diversification of the supply chain, could be considered as a long-term strategic option, but it is hardly actionable in the short-term. AESGP cautions that protectionism concentrates risk and vulnerability domestically, reduces the diversity of potential external suppliers and diminishes the pressure of competition, economies of scale and, thus, affordability.