Drug Shortages due to Reduced Freight Capacity
Europe is now facing coronavirus drug shortages due to reduced freight capacity and more specifically air freight capacity. As many countries have imposed lockdowns, travel bans, and other restrictions, airlines are forced to have their aircraft grounded. Experts predict that the demand for drugs will continue to increase as the pandemic spreads all over the world.
How Aircraft Grounding Affects Supply
Last month Medicines for Europe Director-General Adrian van den Hoven warned that drug chain supply from countries such as India and China is essential for European states. Shipping drugs across the globe is critical and should be done fast but aircraft is grounded in the majority of states. The generic drug market relies on commercial passenger aircraft for shipping medications but hundreds of thousands of passenger flights have been temporarily suspended. According to Adrian van den Hoven, the market faces severe constraints with the pandemic intensifying and making it increasingly difficult for freight forwarders to transport medications to and from the old continent.
Medicines for Europe urged the Commission to offer incentives to EU Member States to extend aid to air carriers. This will help ensure that there is enough capacity to ship medical equipment and supplies, pharmaceutical ingredients, and medicines. An alternative solution is financial support offered by the commission to guarantee shipments by charter aircraft.
Now that the coronavirus pandemic has intensified, Europe is more likely to experience drug shortages, despite the fact that manufacturers are producing some medications used in intensive care units. EU countries import large quantities of anaesthetics, muscle relaxant ingredients, and narcotic pain relievers. Before the pandemic, off-patient drugs were largely out of focus compared to high-value medications. However, over-dependence on imports from India and China and supply disruptions may become a health security issue.
In early April, India announced that the export ban on paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine would be partially lifted. Exports of potential coronavirus drugs, however, depend on existing orders and whether domestic demand has been fully met. Export will be allowed on humanitarian grounds and to the extent that stock is available. The ban on hydroxychloroquine export was imposed on March 25 by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.
Indian officials noted that an assessment is already underway with regard to the quantities available for export. The fact that domestic demand for hydroxychloroquine is expected to surge is a major consideration. Anurag Srivastava, foreign ministry spokesman stated that demand for coronavirus medications will be subject to continuous monitoring. The ministry spokesman also clarified that medications will be shipped to neighboring countries first as they rely on supply as well as to states that have been severely hit by the pandemic.
As a positive development, Israeli pharmaceutical producer Teva and U.S.-based Mylan announced plans to restart production of hydroxychloroquine due to increased demand. With a capacity to produce 50 million pills, Mylan is expected to secure key medication to treat over 1.5 million coronavirus patients.