MEPs call for increased self-sufficiency in medicines to address shortages

The European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee has called for increased self-sufficiency within the EU to better address medicines shortage, noting that the problem has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a report adopted by 79 votes to 1, with no abstentions, MEPs called on the European Commission to find ways to restore the manufacturing of pharmaceutical products in Europe, prioritising essential and strategic medicines. Presently, 40% of medicines marketed in the EU originate from outside the bloc, while around 60-80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients are sourced from India and China.

With this in mind, the committee encourages the introduction of financial incentives, which would be in line with state aid rules, to persuade producers to shift production to Europe. They also expressed their approval of the new EU4Health programme to increase the availability and accessibility of medicines and medical equipment ,

MEPs also called for member states to share best practices in stock management and to create coordinated health strategies, including further use of joint EU procurement of medicines.

The Commission is also asked to create a European contingency reserve of strategically-important medicine, which would function as an emergency European pharmacy.

“Public health has become a geostrategic weapon that can bring a continent to its knees. Our dependence on third countries has been exposed by the current pandemic,” French EPP MEP and rapporteur Nathalie Colin-Oesterlé said.

“It is necessary to relocate certain types of production, to harmonise legislation and to strengthen cooperation between member states in order to achieve greater solidarity and to regain our independence. I call in my report for a genuine pharmaceutical industrial strategy.”