ESMO delivers its recipe to prevent shortages of essential medicines in Europe

Even essential medicines can at times become difficult to find in Europe, and this can in some cases represent a threat to the life of cancer patients who are otherwise being treated effectively: to prevent future shortages of essential drugs, the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) collaborated with the European Parliament to organise a cross-partisan event entitled “Shortages of Inexpensive, Essential Medicines: Calling for Tangible Political Commitments in the EU”, held yesterday in Brussels.

“Shortages of inexpensive essential medicines have complex and multifactorial causes. In Europe, these often involve quality and manufacturing issues, including low profitability of inexpensive medicines and poor reporting mechanisms” ESMO points out in a document circulated after the event. “In oncology, in particular, where there are often no alternatives to these medicines, shortages pose a threat to patient safety as they reduce adherence to therapy and limit the ability of physicians to provide effective treatment regimens.”

“Shortages negatively impact both the health of European citizens and the sustainability of the healthcare systems. The situation is dramatically impacting on cancer patients, as the medicines affected by shortages have few proven effective alternatives or no alternative at all” ESMO President Josep Tabernero commented. “That’s why ESMO is proposing a course of action with key steps to be taken in the near future.

Among other measures, ESMO recommends that a common European definition of medicine shortages be created and that EU-level strategic plans and actions be introduced to respond to such shortages. The Society will also advocate that, as a first important step, an EU-wide study be developed on the issue and its overarching impact on the European Union.

“This is a public health emergency” Tabernero concluded. “The European Union has the competence to address market failures in this area, and ESMO can be a strong partner in developing practical solutions to prevent shortages going forward. I am confident that the discussions in Brussels will help to position inexpensive essential medicines as a key political priority for the EU legislature of the next five years.”

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