Europe’s COVID-19 battle: Update on the supply of medicines to the patients that need them

Earlier today, EFPIA participated in the third of what are now weekly calls with Health Commissioner Kyriakides, Commissioner Breton and Commissioner Lenarčič together with representatives from across the medicines and medical devices supply chain. As the COVID-19 crisis around the world deepens, these meetings have continued to be proactive, collaborative and solution-focused in addressing supply issues in a way that puts patients first.

Existing supply challenges continue and new ones emerge on an almost daily basis. Ensuring medicines get to the patients that need them is a truly global undertaking. Unilateral export bans by countries, requirements to stockpile at national level or forcing manufacturers to produce only for a local market first, all put pressure on a supply system designed to function across borders.

These geo-political considerations and crisis management responses exacerbate logistical issues where shipments of medicines, vaccines and semi-finished products are becoming increasingly difficult to organise and air freight capacity is dwindling due to cancelation of flights and the closure of airports.

We commend President von der Leyen, Commissioners Kyriakides, Breton and Lenarčič and the European Medicines Agency for their proactivity on these issues. We are seeing positive signs on the movement of goods and people within the EU, although there still some localised barriers to tackle, as well as key publications of regulatory guidelines and the addressing of issues related to third country trade. Addressing the global issues is now essential to build on progress made in Europe.

In addition to the work by the Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is working on modelling how COVID-19 will affect Europe in the coming weeks, which will provide essential data to plan and manage the supply of medicines to meet the needs of patients.

Our staff involved in the manufacture and distribution of medicines across Europe are some of the unsung heroes in this crisis. As Sanofi CEO, Paul Hudson observed in a blog post this week “As the team packed and shipped medicines, I asked the site leader: “Do you have any concerns that people won’t come to work?” “Not at all,” he said. “We asked for volunteers to work during the weekend - we had twice as many hands go up than we needed.” Over the coming days we need to work with the EU Institutions and Member States to ensure that staff involved in the production and supply of medicines have access to the personal protective equipment they need to continue to ensure the supply of medicines to patients across Europe.

As an industry #WeWontRest in the fight against COVID-19.