The industry is called upon to provide answers to medicines shortages.

UM – 05/2024

Right at the beginning, Ursula von der Leyen sent her message via video to the packed conference hall of the Hotel Brussels - on the occasion of the launch event for the Critical Medicines Alliance (CMA) on 25 April. According to the President-in-Office of the Commission, the formation of the alliance is the industrial response to the problems of shortages in medicinal products. Consequently, the majority of guests came from the pharmaceutical industry and trade.

"The CMA is not a conference"

Patient or payer organisations may have wondered why they were invited. Doubts are likely to have grown over the course of the event. At the latest when Laurent Muschel, Director of HERA, the authority for crisis resilience and response, announced that the tasks of the two working groups to be set up were of a more technical nature and that this would be taken into account when selecting the participants, one or two guests may have felt uninvited. However, it is not yet official who will be given the opportunity to take a seat at one of the working group tables.

Develop concrete options for action

The CMA is set to run for five years and will work in two working groups. Their chairs are also members of the steering group, which also includes representatives of the Member States, the Trio Presidency and industry. A strategy paper with concrete recommendations for action is to be presented towards the end of the year, or by the beginning of 2025 at the latest.

In focus: The supply chains of eleven active ingredients

The first working group will look at issues surrounding capacity building, while the second will analyse the vulnerability of supply chains of critical medicines. To this end, the products that have already experienced supply bottlenecks and that cause the greatest damage when unavailable have been selected from the list of critical medicines published December last year. These include the antibiotics amoxicilin, the benzodiazepine, clonazepam and a hepatitis B vaccine.

The composition of the working groups determines success

The working groups will meet monthly starting May this year. They offer the opportunity to provide expert input and help shape the content of the discussion. This is an opportunity. Depending on the composition of the working groups, however, there is a risk that interests are served that are not absolutely necessary to solve the problem, but may be expensive. The openness with which the industry complained on the podiums that the biggest problem was prices also gives rise to fears that solutions to problems may be sought in areas where at least the EU cannot provide answers. However, this would be a missed opportunity to jointly develop ideas on how the production, supply, storage and distribution of medicines can be better harmonised and coordinated in order to avoid bottlenecks as far as possible.