BELGIUM — The European Union (EU) will present plans later this year to avoid medicine shortages and improve stocks’ transparency, according to the EU’s health commissioner, Reuters reports.

The proposals, which are expected in March, will update the EU’s current general pharmaceuticals legislation and aim to address the EU’s current supply shortage.

This includes antibiotics such as amoxicillin, medications to treat colds, flu, and other respiratory infections, as well as pediatric treatments.

Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, told a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg that antibiotic shortages are becoming increasingly problematic for member states, and that the revised law will address this.

Twenty-six of the 27 EU countries have reported shortages to the European Medicines Agency amid an early surge of respiratory infections this fall.

Our objective is and remains to secure access to medicines for all patients in need and to avoid any market disruption of medicines in the EU,” Kyriakides said.

Some of these measures include selling the generic equivalent or a similar medicine, or in some countries maybe even changing some formulations, like converting tablets to syrup, so children are able to take them.

The plans will include stronger obligations for meeting supply demands and earlier notification of shortages and withdrawals.

The situation is considered critical in most European countries, but according to Steffen Thirstrup, Chief Medical Officer at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), people should not start stockpiling medicines

EU legislators told the European Parliament that the shortages were urgent, but some experts told Reuters that shortfalls of essential generic drugs such as antibiotics were unlikely to be resolved because of the outsourcing of generic manufacturing to Asia.

Kyriakides said the EU is using all available regulatory options and is asking drug companies to boost production.

She also said that the Health Emergency and Preparedness and Response Authority, the EU’s health crisis group established in response to COVID-19, could help source drugs and medical supplies on behalf of member states.

Also, Supply Management reported that European countries have started stockpiling essential medicines and taking other mitigation measures.

Earlier this month, Greece banned the export of drugs after it found that pharmaceutical firms were importing drugs into the country at low prices before marking them up and exporting them again, leading to internal shortages.

France also outlawed the online sale of the over-the-counter painkiller paracetamol (acetaminophen) to ensure availability of the drug in retail stores.

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