For several months, almost all European countries have experienced a serious shortage of medicines.
French media report severe drug shortages in pharmacies: out of 13,000 registered items, only 4 are now available. People tour dozens of pharmacies and line up to find the right drug, with officials urging not to buy drugs for future use and take them only when prescribed by a doctor.
The pharmaceutical crisis has not only affected France, for several months almost all European countries have experienced a serious shortage of medicines. The media and health officials report shortages of life-saving drugs: antibiotics, pain relievers and fever reducers, cancer drugs, insulin, corticosteroids, epilepsy drugs. Profile officials in France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Germany and other countries are reporting shortages of hundreds of items. Europeans are feeling the shortage of paracetamol and antibiotics particularly acutely as the continent is currently experiencing a triple epidemic of influenza, Covid-19 and bronchiolitis.
According to experts, there are two reasons for this shortage. The first is the growth in demand in recent years, caused by a wave of epidemics. In 2022 alone, antibiotic sales grew by 43%. The second is supply disruptions and the EU’s heavy reliance on imports of medicines. 80% of the active substances and 40% of the drugs used in Europe are produced outside the continent, mainly in China and India. Problems also arise with the containers of medicines due to the shortage of aluminum and cardboard.
In France, where the state actively regulates drug prices, production simply becomes unprofitable, and part of the drugs produced in the country is sold abroad.
How do Europeans get out of the situation?
Despite promises to resolve the crisis, EU authorities and health officials acknowledge that solving this protracted problem takes time: it is necessary to completely change the pharmaceutical market, increase its own production and make it profitable, without allowing them to rise prices for consumers.
Meanwhile, the Europeans are trying to get out of the situation as best they can. Officials limit the sale of medicines to one person and urge citizens not to panic. Pharmacists look for new supply channels or offer analogues to customers, which is not always the way out due to possible side effects. Residents of France practice pharmacy tourism to neighboring countries, for example, to Italy, where they buy paracetamol at exorbitant prices.
The president of the German Chamber of Physicians, Klaus Reinhardt, proposed setting up a drug market where owners of unused pills could give them to patients in need, but was criticized by the pharmacists’ union, which called the idea dangerous.
None of the solutions is able to meet the seasonal demand in a short time, so the shortage will persist in the near future, causing fear and irritation among the population and anxiety among doctors.