Package of proposals to ensure the supply of medicinal products for treating COVID-19.

UM – 04/2020

On 8 April, the European Commission published guidelines on the supply of medicines needed to treat COVID-19 patients (C(2020) 2272 final). The aim of this communication is to work towards the smooth supply of medicines and medical oxygen and to prevent shortages. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides had previously written to the European pharmaceutical associations and called on them to meet their responsibility for ensuring sufficient production and access to necessary medicines. 

The aim is to show solidarity by lifting export bans and restrictions as much as possible and avoid preventive stockpiling. Reliable information should prevent excessive purchasing behaviour. This applies not only to citizens purchasing non-prescription medicines, but also to pharmaceutical wholesalers and community pharmacies. Temporarily limiting online sales of essential medicines should also be considered. 

It is also imperative to ensure the supply of necessary products. The Commission has developed a range of proposals to achieve this, including: 

  • Improving the exchange of information between authorities, industry, wholesalers and hospital pharmacies, particularly regarding shortages or special needs. This should make use of the communication channels of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

  • The Commission also makes reference to Temporary Framework C(2020) 3200 final, which is designed to facilitate cooperation between companies with regard to antitrust law in order to promote the production of pharmaceuticals in high demand. 

  • Manufacturing capacity can be supported by fiscal incentives and State aid. Workers in the pharmaceutical industry and wholesale should be provided with personal protective equipment and the ability to travel to their workplace should be ensured. Particular flexibility must also be applied in the context of the Commission’s guidelines for cross-border workers (2020/C 102 I/03). 

  • There should also be regulatory flexibility, for example, when it comes to designating new production sites or extending product expiry dates.  

The Commission rightly points out that there are different ways of bridging the gap between the supply and demand of medicines. The Commission itself is counting on more coordination and cooperation. There is already talk of a ‘White Deal’ (white being the colour associated with the healthcare).