“A public health emergency”: ESMO’s comments on essential medicine shortages in Europe

An image to illustrate medicine shortages
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The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) has released its comments on and recommendations for dealing with the essential medicine shortages in Europe.

What are the reasons for essential medicine shortages in Europe?

According to ESMO, the inexpensive essential medicine shortages in Europe have complex, multifactorial causes including quality and manufacturing issues, such as:

  • Low profitability of inexpensive medicines; and
  • Poor reporting mechanisms.

The risk to patient safety

ESMO reported concerns that, particularly in oncology, where there are often no alternative medicines, the medicine shortages pose a threat to patient safety. This is because the reduce the adherence to therapy and limit the ability of physicians to provide effective treatment regimens.

The impact on the sustainability of European healthcare

ESMO President Josep Tabernero commented: “Shortages negatively impact both the health of European citizens and the sustainability of the healthcare systems. The situation is dramatically impacting on cancer patients, as the medicines affected by shortages have few proven effective alternatives or no alternative at all. That’s why ESMO is proposing a course of action with key steps to be taken in the near future.”

ESMO’s recommendations

Among other measures, ESMO recommends the creation of a common European definition for medicine shortages and the introduction of EU-level strategic plans and actions to respond to the shortages.

It also advocates an important first step; an EU-wide study on medicine shortages and the impact of this on the European Union.

Tabernero added: “This is a public health emergency. The European Union has the competence to address market failures in this area, and ESMO can be a strong partner in developing practical solutions to prevent shortages going forward. I am confident that the discussions in Brussels will help to position inexpensive essential medicines as a key political priority for the EU legislature of the next five years.”

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