Europe’s COVID-19 battle: Supply, resilience and recovery

Following last weeks (29.04.2020) call with Health Commissioner Kyriakides and Commissioner Breton on working to ensure the supply of and availability of essential medicines in the fight against COVID-19, EFPIA Director General, Nathalie Moll said. “We continue to work with the Commission, EMA and Member States to ensure patients across Europe get the medicines they need, now and for any potential second wave of COVID-19 infections. As Europe considers its exit strategy, we are committed to working with all partners in research and healthcare to build Europe’s resilience and pandemic preparedness, from the scientist’s bench to the patient’s bedside.”
EFPIA member companies are continuing to work around the clock to increase capacity and ensure the supply of critical medicines to patients across Europe. By implementing their pandemic preparedness plans back in January 2020, companies have been able to achieve as much as a 260% increase in production in some cases.
Speaking about the immediate challenges, Dr Susanne Fiedler, of EFPIA Member company MSD and a participant at the meeting said, “We are facing an enormous increase in demand for some medicines, especially ICU medicines. All the evidence suggests that for now this is an allocation challenge, not a production problem. Companies have increased production where they can, the real issue is about having a clear picture of what is likely to be needed, one, two and three months from now and getting the right drug to the right hospital in the right country at the right time.  To facilitate this, we urgently need ECDC modelling data about the likely progression of the pandemic in each country as well as patient level and hospital level data in the Member States to help us plan, sequence and allocate medicines to the patients who need them.’

Commissioner Kyriakides, highlighted the publication of the revised EMA guidance on the management of Clinical Trials during COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has instigated a host of challenges to conducting clinical trials such as quarantines, site closures, travel limitations, disruptions in supply chain for investigational and ancillary products and infection of trial investigators and patients. All of these challenges may lead to participants discontinuing in the trial, protocol deviations and missing data risking the integrity of trials, which threatens to devalue the considerable investment by patients, investigators, healthcare organisations and sponsors. We are grateful for the updated guidance from European Regulators that will help support the continuity of clinical trials and is another example of the pragmatic solutions made possible by the collaborative approach that put the needs of patients first.
In his introduction to the call, Commissioner Breton highlighted the economic impact across Europe of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe can play a key role in the region’s road to recovery. First of all by developing and manufacturing, at pace and scale, affordable treatments and vaccines that will ultimately provide a route out from under the shadow of the coronavirus, as well as by providing tools to build Europe’s resilience against future outbreaks. In addition, the industry continues to invest an estimated € 36,500 million in R&D in Europe every year. It directly employs some 765,000 people in Europe and according to a report released by PwC in June 2019, supports around 2.7 million jobs in the EU. The same report highlighted that the activities of pharmaceutical companies contributed over € 100 billion directly to the EU economy, with an additional € 106 billion provided through the supply chain and employee spending. Innovative pharma in Europe is also the largest contributor to Europe’s positive trade balance contributing over €91bn. In the wake of the launch of the European Commission’s Industrial Strategy last month, now more than ever is it crucial that all actors work together to forge a Pharmaceutical Strategy that also drives Europe’s economic recovery while building its resilience.