Drugs Medical Pharma

Antibiotic shortage forces EU to take measures


HQ Team

January 26, 2023:The European Union is facing a shortage of some widely-used antibiotics.

A group of European patient and consumer organisations has written a letter to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) expressing concern over the shortage of antibiotics such as amoxicillin – used to treat bacterial infections in children – since October.

“The main root cause declared by producers is an insufficient production capacity to face the surge in demand,” the letter signed by 11 organisations, including the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said.

The consortium asked the EMA to declare the current antibiotic shortage a “major event”. This would allow the regulator to coordinate action at a pan-European level and monitor the production of the manufacturers.

Some EU states have already flagged shortages of antibiotics such as azithromycin and cefuroxime and asked drug suppliers to increase production. Officials are considering allowing EU states to use medicines that may not be authorised domestically.

“Nevertheless, these measures have not been sufficient to contain the crisis and to invert the trend until now,” the letter said.

A spike in respiratory infections after two years of COVID restrictions has seen the demand for certain antibiotics surge. This has put additional pressure on global supplies. Imports are also restricted due to the non-availability of drugs and supply chain disruptions all over the world. Moreover, drugmakers also cut output when demand dipped at the height of the pandemic.

India and China are the leading producers of generic ingredients and drugs, as the cost of manufacturing is low here. Meanwhile, local producers have faced large hikes in input costs due to the war in Ukraine.

A number of antibiotics are in short supply, said Charlotte Roffiaen, representative of the French patient association France Assos Santé.

“We don’t know how many, exactly which ones, and the extent of the shortages…it would make sense to have a bigger picture,” she said, suggesting that declaring a major event would enhance transparency and help prevent any further supply issues.

EMA chief medical officer Steffen Thirstrup said that the agency was monitoring the situation but did not believe it should be classified as a major event.

A further discussion of this issue will take place on Jan 26., an EMA spokesperson said on Tuesday.

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