France medication shortage crisis prompts PM meeting

Individuals and hospitals have reported significant shortages of key medicines in France

Concerns are growing over a lack of certain medications in France, with some patients struggling to get their prescriptions, and the Prime Minister calling a meeting in Paris in an attempt to solve the issue.

Patients have reported that certain medicines - especially those needed for lifelong conditions - are often not available at their pharmacy, or in any others nearby.

One patient in Ile-de-France, Michel Schiapiro - who has had a kidney transplant and needs daily cortisone as a result - told news source FranceInfo that he had problems getting new supplies of medication for almost two months.

Cortisone is one of the medicines for which stock levels have been low or non-existent since April this year.

A “stock rupture” is declared whenever a pharmacy or health centre reports that it has not been able to obtain medication for 72 hours. Medical safety agency l'Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (ANSM) defines the issue as “an interruption of treatment that could threaten the vital prognosis of patients in the short- to medium-term”.

Shortages have been attributed to “domino effect” problems in the supply chain. When one manufacturer runs into difficulties, it causes problems all the way down the line, as other suppliers are unable to make up the shortfall.

Hospitals have also seen a shortage - and in some cases, a total lack - of medicines affected by the issues. Around 30 hospital professors have called on the State to bring back medicine production to France, as 80% of generic medicines are imported from Asia.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called a meeting at Matignon in Paris yesterday (Thursday September 19), with representatives from medical manufacturers present, to discuss possible solutions.

A government plan on the best way to manage stock shortages of key medicines is set to be presented this month.

The issue has been worsening over the past decade, but this year around 20 doctors and professors sounded the alarm with an open letter to newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), suggesting that the problem was caused by poor stock management by laboratories.

Yet, manufacturers hit back, saying that there was not “one single simple solution” to the issue.

The ANSM said that it would be certain to act against sector manufacturers who did not respect regulation.

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