EU officials set short-term plan to combat drug shortages this winter and beyond

With supply chain issues expected to persist this winter, the European Commission has created a short-term plan to help combat shortages of critical medicines.

One of the short-term measures is the Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism for medicines. Under this program, which kicks off immediately, countries will share their stocks of drugs as others in the bloc face shortages.

Then, by the end of this year, authorities plan to create a list of critical medicines, between 100 and 350, that will assist in the analysis of the supply chain network. The list will guide decisions about where new measures are needed—largely to mitigate the bloc’s overdependence on generic drugs from India and on ingredients for pharmaceutical manufacturing from China.

Meanwhile, the commission is setting up a Critical Medicines Alliance, with plans for it to become operational in early 2024. The alliance will allow national authorities to coordinate with industry and the EU to combat shortages and supply chain vulnerabilities. The goal of the alliance is to pave the way for potential legislation.

Another short-term measure the EC revealed is to relax regulatory constraints that prevent medicines from reaching patients quickly. Extending the shelf-life of some medicines is recommended along with authorizing alternative medicines.

The initiative comes as the bloc is seeking to reform the biopharma industry. In May of this year, that push led 19 countries to launch a separate effort to reduce their supply chain dependence on other countries.