Europe’s COVID-19 battle: working together to ensure the supply of medicines to the patients that need them

EFPIA and our member companies and associations are committed to the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Our first thoughts are with all those affected by the outbreak.

As an industry, we are focused on three key areas; the search for new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments to help in the fight against the COVID-19, supporting governments and health systems on the ground and ensuring the supply of medicines to the patients that need them.

To support the third and critical objective of getting medicines to patients, EFPIA warmly welcomes this week’s adoption by the Commission and Home Affairs Council of a range of measures aimed at maintaining the free circulation of medicines around Europe. Measures include:
  • Preservation of the free circulation of all goods. In particular, guaranteeing the supply chain of essential products such as medicines, medical equipment, essential and perishable food products and livestock.
  • No restrictions imposed on the circulation of goods in the Single Market, especially (but not limited to) essential, health-related and perishable goods, notably foodstuffs, unless duly justified.
  • Designated priority lanes for freight transport (e.g. via ‘green lanes’) and consider waiving existing weekend bans.
  • Enabling transport workers, to circulate across borders as needed.
With Europe now at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, there are perpetual challenges in getting medicines to patients across Europe, challenges that EFPIA member companies are meeting head on. Members continually monitor their supply chains and contingency plans as well as liaising with the Commission, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Member States and their Competent Authorities to address issues as they arise with pragmatic approaches that put patient needs first.

EFPIA is in constant dialogue with the authorities through weekly calls with Health Commissioner Kyriakides, Commissioner Breton and Commissioner Lenarčič together with representatives from across the medicines and medical devices supply chain. In addition, 18 March 2020 sees the first meeting of the EU Executive Steering Group on shortages of medicines caused by major events, convened by the Commission, the EMA, Member States and their Competent Authorities to “discuss measures aimed at addressing the impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 on the supply of medicines in the EU”.

From the latest information received by EFPIA, there is limited immediate risk that COVID-19 would impact manufacturing and supply of branded medicines in Europe in the short term. While supply and demand vary by product, EFPIA members are not aware of any significant near-term impacts on the availability of our medicines and vaccines. Consequently, at this stage, no shortages have been reported to the EMA. Companies have also assessed potential longer-term impacts. The situation is fluid, a pandemic of this scale contains inevitable uncertainty, but at this point EFPIA members do not anticipate impacts to their supply chains unless disruption due to the COVID-19 outbreak is sustained over several months.

We continue to monitor the situation closely and we will keep an open and constant dialogue with the European Medicines Agency and the European and National Authorities. At the same time, researchers from across our member companies will continue the quest to find diagnostics, vaccines and treatments to address the crisis.