German hospitals warn of drug shortages – DW – December 16, 2022

Doctors in Germany warned on Friday that delivery problems had led to a shortage of important medicines and called for production to be brought back to Germany.

“Supply bottlenecks are increasingly causing serious problems, including in hospitals,” said the head of the German Hospital Society (DKG), Gerald Gass, of the Funke media group.

The situation is particularly serious when it comes to antibiotics, cancer drugs and emergency drugs for heart attacks and strokes.

“We have to start getting everything back now. Maybe we also have to discuss nationwide the need for our own production capacities for vital medicines,” Christian Karagiannidis, member of the government committee for hospital care, told ZDF on Friday.

This comes amid an early and unusually strong wave of cold and flu-like illnesses in Germany, which is leading to unusually high demand for over-the-counter medicines and staffing shortages in pharmacies and medical facilities.

Why is Germany confronted with drug shortages?

Production of key drugs — particularly cheaper ones that have long since expired, such as ibuprofen and cough syrup — has been shifted to cheaper locations like China and India over the past decade, but some of them have faced major production or supply problems.

The production capacity is also not sufficient to cover the increasing demand for certain medicines. Most recently, hospitals warned of a shortage of medicines for children such as fever and cough syrup.

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Andrew Ullman, the health expert for the pro-business Free Democratic Party, told radio station RBB that one of the problems is the small number of manufacturers supplying certain medicines to the European market.

As an example, he cited antibiotics that are available from just one or two companies in Asia that enjoy monopoly advantages.

What is the solution?

One suggestion was to stockpile the necessary medicines, especially in the run-up to winter when diseases like the flu are spreading.

However, Karagiannidis warned that many drugs cannot be stored indefinitely due to their expiration dates.

The federal government, to which the FDP also belongs, has agreed to relocate the production of prescription drugs back to Germany.

But in the short term, according to Family and Youth Minister Lisa Paus, the government is working “intensively” to remedy the bottlenecks, including replacement medicines for colds, flu and respiratory viruses.

The health policy spokeswoman for the SPD, Heike Baehrens, asked pharmacists not to stockpile any medication during this time and asked them to “really only stock up for a week”.

“We have to bring drug production back to Europe,” demanded the FDP health expert Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, joining the increasingly loud calls for a long-term solution to the problem.

ab/msh (dpa, AFP)

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