Drug shortages in France exacerbated by Covid


Drug shortages in France and Europe that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 health pandemic have been highlighted in a report published on November 9 by the French consumer group L’UFC-Que Choisir.The group found that in 2016, there were 405 drug shortages in France. In 2020, this figure was multiplied by six with 2,400 shortages.

Professor Alain Astier, member of the National Academy of Pharmacy, told news source Franceinfo the situation has been “extremely exacerbated” by Covid-19.

He added that the situation was even worse than the UFC-Que Choisir report suggested: “There are 50 times more shortages than 12 years ago. It’s scandalous. ”

Professor blames pharmaceutical companies

Professor Astier attributes the shortages to “the financialization of the pharmaceutical industry, which operates like any other industry by maximizing profits and reducing costs.

“Cost minimization leads to outsource products to low cost countries and abandon products that are not profitable. It is an industrial and financial logic. ”

For him, the solution lies in the repatriation of production chains in France and in the attempt to set up a system where the final objective is not financial gain.

In one in five cases, laboratories have “no substitute” for missing drugs

UFC-Que Choisir report notes particularly concerning shortages drugs of major therapeutic interest (drugs with significant therapeutic benefit).

Stopping prescriptions for these drugs can affect the life expectancy of the patients who take them and significantly reduce their ability to fight disease.

He found that in 12% of out-of-stock cases, labs were using “last resort” solutions such as reducing patient doses. In 30% of cases, patients received an alternative medicine to that prescribed, although the report noted that “substitutions can cause significant side effects, or require time to adapt to new doses, in especially for elderly patients ”.

Another laboratory in five (18%) in France “simply does not offer a solution or substitution” for drug shortages.

Overall, the report concluded that pharmaceutical companies were “rarely able to meet the level of demand for health issues”.

Request more checks on laboratories

The report also noted that the drugs most likely to be out of stock are older and cheaper ones.

In July 2020, 140 drugs would be vulnerable to stockouts by the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products. Of this total, 75% had been put on the market more than 20 years ago, of which three quarters cost less than € 25.

The report called for more measures to require laboratories to have “sufficient stocks to meet the needs of people who use the health system for all drugs of significant therapeutic interest”.

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