According to a media report, the pharmacists' association complained about a widespread shortage of medicines in North Rhine-Westphalia. "Of the 100 million prescriptions that are submitted to pharmacies in North Rhine-Westphalia every year, almost every second one is now affected by a bottleneck," said the head of the North Rhine-Westphalia Association of Pharmacists, Thomas Preis, of the "Rheinische Post". Sometimes the drug doesn't exist at all, sometimes not in the prescribed dosage or dosage form.
According to Preis, this also has the consequence: "The manufacturer of a paracetamol juice for children is now delivering packs to Germany that are actually intended for the Ukraine, have a Ukrainian design and a Ukrainian package insert."
According to the newspaper, general practitioners are also alarmed: “The bottlenecks affect various blood pressure medications, painkillers, psychotropic drugs and antibiotics. Certain juices are not available, which particularly affects small children who cannot swallow pills, ”said the head of the North Rhine General Practitioners Association, Oliver Funken. "We demand that drug production be relocated to the Schengen area."
There have recently been delivery bottlenecks for off-patent medicines such as fever syrups for children, but also for preparations for adults such as antibiotics and cancer medicines. In order to avoid this in the future, according to plans by the Federal Ministry of Health, there should also be new rules for stocks at pharmacies as a safety buffer.
According to a survey, many people in Germany fear shortages of medicines. A new study by the Federal Association of Drug Manufacturers (BAH) shows that a total of 38 percent of those surveyed rate the risk of delivery bottlenecks as “very high” or “rather high”. On the other hand, a third of participants consider the risk to be "low" or "very low," according to the representative survey of 2,000 people.
In particular, people between the ages of 50 and 69 assessed the risk of supply bottlenecks as high (41 percent in total) and people over 70 years of age (43 percent). Difficulties or shortages when buying medicines, however, were experienced primarily by the 30 to 49 year olds (37 percent) and fewer people over 70 (22 percent).
Overall, according to the study, 30 percent of those surveyed experienced difficulties or shortages when buying medicines within twelve months. For comparison: In June 2022 it was 18 percent, according to the BAH. There, however, people do not believe that the situation has deteriorated significantly since then, but rather that the increasing media coverage has contributed to a "perceived" worsening of the supply situation.
In general, younger population groups and households with children, those in need of care or the chronically ill often experienced problems when buying medicines, the BAH explained. However, older people, the chronically ill and people who need a lot of medication, including many pensioners, are more afraid of bottlenecks, although this group did not experience problems significantly more often. Older people are often affected by serious illnesses and worry more.
The federal government is starting in several areas in the fight against scarce medicines. According to plans by the Ministry of Health, there should be new rules for stocks as a buffer. In order to compensate for short-term disruptions in the supply chain or short-term larger additional requirements, "an obligation to store goods for several months" will be introduced, according to a draft bill for a planned law.
The draft follows key points that Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) had already presented at the end of last year. They also provide for new price rules that are intended to make deliveries to Germany more economically attractive for drug manufacturers.
However, manufacturers of off-patent medicines continue to see high cost pressure on medicines. According to a survey by the Pro Generika lobby association, some of them expect to have to take medicines off the market. Manufacturers are complaining about rising costs combined with strict price regulation in Germany, so that some companies have withdrawn from the production of children's fever juices, for example.