Several actions taken to ensure the supply of medicine during COVID-19

27 May 2020

Several actions have been taken nationally to counter supply problems affecting vital medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Work is also done at the EU level to ensure the supply of medicines.

For some time now, efforts have been taken to prevent the supply of medicines being affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. This work has especially been directed at the medicines used in intensive care units treating COVID-19 patients but also the supply of vital medicines for other diseases.

“We have collaborated for quite a while now with authorities and companies in and outside Denmark to avoid medicine supply problems, and there are currently no reports of problems in Denmark. But we cannot rule out shortages in the long term because we are dealing with a global crisis. That’s why we have made this our top priority”, said Director General of the Danish Medicines Agency, Thomas Senderovitz.

Several EU member states have reported scarcity of some of the medicines used to treat COVID-19 patients. These medicines are for intensive care patients, e.g. certain types of antibiotics and muscle relaxants. In addition, demand has increased for some of the medicine types authorised for other diseases but presently being tested in clinical trials as a treatment for COVID-19.

Actions to ensure the supply of medicines

In Denmark, several actions have been taken to counter supply problems. The Danish Medicines Agency has introduced specific restrictions on the use of the medicines hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and paracetamol for children.

In addition, Denmark, like Norway and Sweden and numerous other EU and non-EU countries, has taken efforts to adjust the stocks of medicines to ensure there is a reserve in case of shortages.

More specifically the Danish Medicines Agency collaborates with the procurement organisation Amgros and the two pharmacy wholesalers Nomeco and TMJ to adjust their stocks with a view to supporting supplies to the Danish hospitals and pharmacies of especially critical medicines.

International efforts to counter supply problems

At the European level, the Danish government, in dialogue with the rest of the EU, is looking at how to secure a greater European independence in the long term concerning the supply of both medicines and personal protective equipment.

In order to support that the European countries coordinate the efforts to counter supply problems in the current situation, the Danish Medicines Agency participates on behalf of Denmark in a strategic coordination group composed of representatives from the EU member states, the European Commission and the European Medicines Agency.

There was already a strong focus on the supply of medicines in 2019, but it is expected that the pandemic will create a more unstable supply situation worldwide. For example, this could be the result of factories closing due to quarantine, logistics problems caused by border closures, export bans, trade restrictions or similar.

One of the initiatives that has been launched in Europe is the joint EU procurement of large consignments of certain medicines. Apart from this work, initiatives are also being developed to support an increased production capacity of medicines used in connection with COVID-19 as well as other critical medicines that could potentially be affected by supply shortages.