European Union health ministers raised concerns over the potential for drug shortages if the COVID-19 outbreak continues to keep China in a near lockdown.
At an emergency meeting in Brussels, France’s Agnès Buzyn warned of “breaks in supply chains,” while Finland’s Minister said COVID-19 could exacerbate what is already an ongoing problem in Europe.
“As you all know too well, medical shortages are a common phenomenon in Europe these days, even without unforeseen situations like this epidemic,”said Krista Kiuru, Finland’s Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said there is no evidence Europe is experiencing a shortage and that a task force is keeping tabs on supplies. She also said the Commission would launch a joint procurement plan to purchase medical equipment.
According to Eurostat data, 6 percent of the EU’s medicinal and pharmaceutical imports came from China in 2018.
But that doesn’t capture the full picture because China also produces some of the key ingredients other countries use to manufacture antibiotics, painkillers and diabetes drugs. India, for example, is the world’s largest generic drugs exporter, but it sources the bulk of its raw pharmaceutical materials from China.
Certain countries like Luxembourg are particularly vulnerable. It has no pharmaceutical industry and imports all of its drugs and medical equipment.