As antibiotics run scarce, Europe outlines drug shortage countermeasures

As surging respiratory infections collide with high inflation, an energy crisis and the war in Ukraine, European officials are taking steps to keep the bloc’s supply of antibiotics intact.

Increased demand for antibiotics such as amoxicillin, especially in formulations for kids, has proved to be an “ongoing public health concern,” several European agencies explained in a release. Geopolitical events and trends like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have exacerbated the situation.

The issue has reached the U.S., as well, where the FDA in October warned that amoxicillin oral solution—the liquid form of the drug often given to children—was currently in shortage.

Further complicating matters in Europe, meanwhile, manufacturing delays and production capacity issues have fueled supply problems across a “majority” of EU member states, officials said Friday.

To get ahead of the issue, a group called the Executive Steering Group on Shortages and Safety of Medicinal Products (MSSG) has been keeping tabs on Europe’s antibiotic shortage since November. With partners in government and industry, the group is working to boost capacity and resolve supply shortfalls.

The team has also put chips behind temporary national measures like unit dose dispensing and compounding.

Based on current information from companies and other stakeholders, MSSG and its compatriots figure the “situation will improve in the coming months.”

Europe’s drug supply dilemma doesn’t end with antibiotics, either. In late September, Medicines for Europe penned an open letter to the EU’s energy and health ministers asking the bloc to lower energy costs for Europe’s generic medicines sector. The trade group pointed to exacerbating issues like inflation, the war in Ukraine and historic pricing pressures as potential threats to the continent’s copycat drug industry.

“This threatens to undermine medicines supply and our industry’s efforts to invest in manufacturing in Europe,” the trade group said in September.