The Ministry of Health initiates checks
Identification of medicines with a real shortage, short and medium-term response interventions to promptly meet the needs of citizens and the definition of communication and awareness-raising activities in order to avoid alarmism and consequent unjustified rush to purchase. This is what the Minister of Health, Orazio Schillaci, highlighted in the meeting that today, 11 January, established the creation of a permanent working table on the supply of drugs, to define the real extent of the phenomenon and indicate resolution proposals. The meeting was convened at the Ministry of Health, together with the undersecretary Marcello Gemmato, in the presence of representatives of the Ministry of Health, Aifa and the pharmaceutical production and distribution chain. The table, established by ministerial decree, will also be extended to include Nas and general practitioners.
What drugs are missing
AIFA has published its annual list of medicines that are difficult to find and – as of January 3, 2023 – the total stands at 3,198, growing by 66 units compared to the December survey (in which it was 3,132). The most commonly known names featured in the list are Moment, Neo Borocillina, Nurofen and Spididol, mainly antiviral or anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. But also Tachipirina, Efferalgan, Tachifludec and Amoxicillin.
No to the rush to the pharmacies
Despite the obvious difficulty, the National Federation of Italian pharmacy owners has specified that it is not a health emergency but a simple slowdown. Federfarma has invited consumers not to rush to stores to create stocks with the risk of aggravating the situation. There are solutions to contain the complication and remedy the deficiencies, the organization assured.
Distributors: “Not even in a pandemic given this shortage”
Distributors have also sounded the alarm. “We were hoping for an institutional intervention because we had already started denouncing this situation 4 months ago and the situation has now become unsustainable – explained Antonello Mirone, the president of Federfarma Servizi -. We would like to know the real reason for the problem, to give homogeneous answers to the citizens, because we have not seen the phenomena of drug shortages that we see now, not even in the midst of the Covid emergency”.
The president of Farmindustria Marcello Cattani also took stock of the lack of some medicines, reported by WHO Europe in various EU states, according to which the causes lie in the increase in the demand for medicines in relation to Covid and the influence but also in the high competitiveness between different countries to guarantee the supply of active ingredients, made more complex due to the war in Ukraine. “Some categories of drugs such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antihypertensives, antidepressants and diuretics – explained Cattani – are currently suffering from growing shortages compared to a year ago, when AIFA recorded about 2,500 shortages while today there are about 3,200: however, 50% of these drugs have been replaced by others while 46% are in a state of shortage”.
Trust in the Meloni government: help the sector
The point, he underlined, is that “we are in a global competitive scenario and the competitive effect has been unleashed above all on the raw materials that contribute to the production of drugs, an area in which Europe is exposed since 75% of these materials or active ingredients comes from imports from China and India”. Not only that: “There are also paper and primary and secondary packaging, therefore plastic and aluminum, which are currently subjected to this competitive dynamic”. A situation that is increasingly weighing on drug companies: “We import the active ingredients from China and India, paying for them in dollars and discounting the weakness of the Euro-dollar exchange rate and, moreover, there are all the effects of the increases in energy and of gas, for which this sector – warned Cattani – is in great difficulty”. In short, “the situation is critical but we want to be positive because the Italian industry is first in Europe in the pharmaceutical sector even if the economic sustainability of the industry is at great risk at the moment”. However, Cattani said he was confident that the Meloni government, which “has the clear objective of defending national interests, has certainly understood how the value of drugs is an investment and the pharmaceutical sector is critical for the country’s security and economic development “. Finally, there is another priority, for which Cattani has launched an appeal: “It is important that citizens do not self-prescribe drugs and do not hoard them irresponsibly, but always follow the doctors’ instructions”.
Municipal pharmacies write to Schillaci: unsustainable situation
After the alarm from pharmacists and Farmindustria, the municipal pharmacies have also launched the alert on the shortage of medicines. “The situation is no longer sustainable”, said the president of the Assofarm association, Venanzio Gizzi, in a letter addressed to the Minister of Health Orazio Schillaci, to whom he asked to intervene to address this critical issue. “I ask you for your authoritative and decisive intervention in this regard, aimed at neutralizing the situation of missing medicines for distribution to citizens”, writes Gizzi. Assofarm also requested a meeting with the minister to submit the initiatives and programs that the association promotes “in the interest of the pharmacy system and therefore of the population in need of health services”. He request has been taken over by the minister that he has created a permanent table until the situation is resolved.
Medicines, alarm in Italy: 3,200 medicines that cannot be found on the counters | Distributors: “Not even in a pandemic given this shortage”