SOS medicines

Publish date 19-07-2023

by Valentina Turinetto

In recent months, many of us have gone to the pharmacy to buy a commonly used drug and received the answer that "it is not currently available".

Since last spring the Federation of the Order of Italian Pharmacists (FOFI) has reported the unavailability of some anti-inflammatory drugs. For a year now, especially in the winter period, characterized by seasonal flu peaks and a still significant presence of Covid, the situation has not improved. According to reports from the AIFA (Italian Medicines Agency), there are around 3,200 medicines in short supply in Italy. Of these, about half are medicines that have ceased to be marketed and for which equivalent products can be found to replace them; the remaining part instead refers precisely to drugs that are in short supply, so it is not possible to find a product that replaces them. There are drugs belonging to all categories, from common anti-inflammatories or antibiotics, to drugs for the nervous system, including products for epilepsy or Parkinson's, drugs for the cardiovascular system, such as thrombolytics, and anticancer drugs.

The situation we are experiencing in our country is not isolated; in fact, the shortage of medicines is affecting all of Europe. The supply difficulties of pharmacies depend on many reasons, which can interfere in various ways on the complex drug production chain. What affects the current difficulties the most is the delocalisation in the production of active ingredients, which makes companies dependent on foreign suppliers: 80% of the active ingredients used in the European Union are produced outside the continent, mainly in China, and about 40% of medicines are imported. Added to this is the lack of some raw materials such as aluminium, which is important for the production of blisters. Finally, the increase in fuel costs has also led to a lower frequency of material delivery.

The situation is certainly problematic, above all for those drugs for which it is not possible to find alternative solutions and which treat important pathologies, such as a tumor or epileptic seizures. The various countries are experimenting with alternative solutions. In both France and Switzerland, pharmacists have been authorized to prepare galenical products (drugs prepared by a pharmacist in a laboratory). In Italy too, pharmacies have been urged to take action to have all the tools necessary to make galenic products. In Germany it has even been proposed to create a sort of market through which private citizens can make available unused medicines in their possession.

Meanwhile, the European Union will have to work to strengthen its production of medicines, with a consequent increase in prices. Their criticality touches us closely and makes us experience concretely that the globalization of the economy can easily be put into difficulty. Certainly another opportunity to rethink the economy in new terms, without ever forgetting solidarity and humanity, because health is everyone's right!

Valentina Turinetto
NP April 2023

This website uses cookies. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy. Click here for more info