German hospitals warn of medication shortages
Amid shortages of medications in German pharmacies, the country’s hospital federation says healthcare facilities are also affected. Politicians are mulling ramping up domestic production, even if it costs more.
Medical professionals in Germany warned on Friday that delivery problems have led to a shortage of important medications and called for production to be brought back to Germany.
“Supply bottlenecks are increasingly causing grave problems, including in hospitals,” the head of the German Hospital Federation (DKG), Gerald Gaß told the Funke media group.
The situation is particularly serious for antibiotics, cancer drugs and emergency medication for heart attacks and strokes.
“We now have to start looking at bringing everything back. Maybe we also have to discuss the need for homegrown production capacities for essential medication on a national level,” Christian Karagiannidis, a member of the government committee for hospital care, told public broadcaster ZDF on Friday.
This comes amid an early and unusually heavy wave of cold and flu-like illnesses in Germany, leading to unusually high demand for over-the-counter medication, and staff shortages at pharmacies and medical facilities.
Why is Germany facing medication shortages?
Production of key drugs — especially cheaper ones where patents have long expired such as ibuprofen and cough syrups — was shifted to cheaper locations such as China and India over the past decade, but some of these have seen major production or delivery issues.
The production capacity is also not large enough to meet the growing demand for certain medications. Most recently, hospitals have warned that they are facing shortages of medications for children such as fever and cough syrups.
Andrew Ullman, the health expert for the pro-business Free Democrat Party, told the radio broadcaster RBB that one of the problems is the small number of producers feeding the European market for certain drugs.
He gave the example of antibiotics that are supplied by just one or two companies in Asia that enjoy monopoly benefits.
What is the solution?
One suggestion has been to stockpile necessary drugs, especially in the lead-up to winter when diseases such as flu spread rampantly.
But Karagiannidis warned that many medicines cannot be stockpiled indefinitely due to their use-by-dates.
Germany’s coalition government, which includes the FDP, has agreed to relocate the production of prescription drugs back to Germany.
But in the short term, the government is working “intensively” to find a fix for the shortages, according to Family and Youth Minister Lisa Paus, including finding replacement medications for colds, flu and respiratory viruses.
Heike Baehrens, the spokesperson on health policy for the Social Democrats (SPD) — the largest party in the coalition government — called on pharmacists to not stockpile medications during this time, asking them to “stock up really for just a week.”
“We have to bring the production of medication back to Europe,” the FDP’s health expert, Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, demanded, joining the growing calls for a long-term solution to the problem.
ab/msh (dpa, AFP)