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Drug export bans and stockpiling causing problems for globally-focused pharma distributors, says EFPIA

Decisions by individual European countries to ensure medicines availability during the COVID-19 pandemic are complicating international supply chains, industry association says

Drug export bans and stockpiling by individual European member states designed to boost domestic supply of essential medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic are causing problems for pharmaceutical companies who have multi-market distribution operations within those countries, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has claimed.

Certain EU countries such as Belgium, Hungary and Portugal have instigated export bans and requisitioning of medicines to ensure medicines availability for their populations during the pandemic, which has so far caused over 170,000 deaths globally.

“Such export bans are particularly challenging for companies who have their multi-market distribution warehouses in those countries, from which they serve all of Europe, or even parts of Africa,” EFPIA said in a statement released Sunday.

The industry association said while it understood why member states wanted to protect domestic drug supply, it pointed out that the pharmaceutical supply chain is international and designed to work across borders.

“No one country can meet all its needs on its own, and through restrictions, countries risk isolating themselves and their citizens from the global supply network,” EFPIA said. “The consequences of export bans are directly detrimental to the availability of medicines for patients across the EU and globally, as well as risking retaliatory measures from other regions that could impact timely availability of medicines for European patients.”

EFPIA said there was also a need for EU member states to provide more information to forecast medicines demand in line with patients’ needs and a collaborative approach to support the continuation of clinical trials across Europe.

Earlier this month, the European Commission published guidelines on optimising medicines supply to avoid shortages during the COVID-19 outbreak, which EFPIA has welcomed. The Commission cited the importance of implementing green lanes to facilitate transport of medicinal products, raw materials, intermediates, active pharmaceutical ingredients, substances of human origin -- such as plasma -- and related materials such as packaging.

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