Fimea joins EU stocktaking in case of possible medicines shortage

Some drugs needed to treat coronavirus patients could potentially start running out without better coordination as the epidemic continues.

File picture of items in a pharmacy / Credit: iStock

The Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea says it is preparing for any possible shortage of medicines used to treat patients in hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

A letter sent last week from the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides to pharmaceutical industry representatives around Europe asks them to work together to stop critical medicines from running out.

The letter was first reported by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who passed the list of drug availability in Finland to News Now Finland.

“During these exceptionally challenging times, we are relying on you and your sense of responsibility and solidarity to ensure that patients in Europe will have access to the medicines they need” says Commissioner Kyriakides.

Among the drugs that could potentially run out quickly in Finland include an anaesthetic called Midozalam; a muscle relaxant called Cisatracurium; a resuscitation drug called Dobutamine; bronchodilators Ipratropium and Bromide Salbutamol; and an anti-viral medicine called Acyclovir.

All are needed for the treatment of coronavirus patients in intensive care.

“This was a question about anticipated or possible shortages of what could be ahead. I would stress that we do not have an urgent situation and these are medicines that could potentially be in short supply over a prolonged period of time” explains Johanna Nystedt, Director of Supervision and Licenses at Fimea.

Finland operates a system whereby pharmaceutical companies are supposed to let authorities know two months in advance if there might be a shortage of a particular medicine. Last year Fimea received almost 1,700 such notices.

“The situation we have now is not something dramatic. We have been seeing an increase of shortage notifications over the last few years and that has been the same situation in every country” Nystedt tells News Now Finland.

Unlike some other EU countries, Finland maintains a system of mandatory supply that stockpiles supplies of critical medicines.

“Depending on the medicines, we might have supplies in stores for three or six months, or ten months of normal use. It’s a law that’s been in force in Finland since the 1980s. We have some sort of a buffer for the situations that we’re experiencing now, but these stra stores don’t last forever” says Johanna Nystedt.

Because of lead-times to produce more quantities of certain medicines, it is challenging to respond quickly to increased demand for particular drugs, and officials say a close collaboration between the various stakeholders such as pharmaceutical companies, and across the EU, is crucial.