European Medicines Verification System Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

Lessons learnt to transition from Horizon 2020 to the new FP10


by Giuliana Miglierini The European Commission published the ex post evaluation of Horizon 2020 (H2020), the FP8 framework programme for research and innovation (R&I) run in years 2014-2020. The report identifies several areas of possible improvement, which may be taken into Read more

Approvals and flops in drug development in 2023


by Giuliana Miglierini Approvals and flops in drug development in 2023 The European Medicines Agency published its annual highlights, showing 77 medicines were recommended for marketing authorisation, and just 3 received a negative opinion (withdrawals were 19). In 2023 some highly expected Read more

Webinar: Oral Colon Drug Delivery - Design Strategies


EIPG webinar Next EIPG webinar is to be held on Wednesday 21st of February 2024 at 17.00 CET (16.00 GMT) in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork. Anastasia Foppoli, will discuss on the various approaches and the general aspects Read more

EC Communication (part 1): How to address critical medicines shortages

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Giuliana Miglierini

As announced on 3 October in the speech given by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides at European Parliament Plenary Session, the EU Commission has published on 24 October its Communication on medicine shortages and strategic healthcare autonomy.

The planned actions are firstly targeted to prevent and mitigate on the short-term critical medicine shortages, thus avoiding the reoccurrence of situations such as those experienced in the 2022. Mid- and long-term actions have been also addressed to support the strategic autonomy of the European pharmaceutical supply chain. Among these is the creation of a Critical Medicines Alliance, to start operations in early 2024.

Improving the management of critical shortages of medicines and ensuring a steady security of supply for the EU has been our priority since day one. We need a single market for medicines in the EU and a new approach to better tackle shortages of critical medicines. Today we are putting forward collective actions to work closer with the industry and help Member States improve the security of supply for the coming winter and in the long-term.” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

In this first post, we will examine actions in the field of medicines shortages, leaving the medium and long-term ones to a following article (part 2).

Prepared for future winters

The first goal of the EU Commission is to avoid situations of shortages of critical antibiotics such as those that occurred last year. To this instance, the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have already identified key antibiotics potentially at risk of critical shortages in the winter season, also in future years.

Immediately after the release of the Communication by the Commission, EMA published the details of the announced new European Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism for medicines, the MSSG Solidarity Mechanism.

The mechanism was developed by EMA’s Medicines Shortages Steering Group (MSSG), on the basis of the informal experience made during the pandemic. In case of critical shortages escalated to the MSSG for coordination at European level to request assistance, other member states may be of help through the rescEU stockpile mechanism to redistribute medicines from available stocks. The activation of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), via its 24/7 available European Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), aims to coordinate and logistically support the voluntary transfer of medicines, and it should represent the last resort, after the interested member state had exhausted all other possibilities.

The MSSG also developed a Toolkit including recommendations on how to tackle shortages of critical medicines. Among others are the monitoring of available stocks, supply and demand, interactions with marketing authorisation holders and manufacturers for increasing the manufacturing capacity and for the fair distribution of medicinal products, the implementation of regulatory flexibilities and actions aimed to improve communication to the public and international cooperation with other regulators to early identify critical shortages.

The other actions to tackle shortages

The first version of the Union list of critical medicines is expected to be released by the end of 2023. It will allow the development of further actions, on the basis of the analysis of the vulnerabilities of the supply chain of selected medicines to occur by April 2024.

In addition to the practical recommendations relative to demand forecasting at national level, the Commission is working on an EU Mechanism for Demand Signalling that should better support the collective EU public sector in its decisions. A new European Shortages Monitoring Platform for reporting information regarding available stocks and shortages of medicines is expected to start operating in 2025. Many future actions shall be supported using artificial intelligence to extract information about trends in demand and supply from existing data.

At the regulatory level, a new Joint Action has been announced for early 2024 to promote the effective use of flexibility as well as of measures applied at national level (i.e. magistral preparations of local pharmacies). Regulatory flexibilities may include, among others, the quick authorisation of alternatives, the approval of alternative suppliers of raw materials or finished products, or the temporary extension of shelf-life.

Another initiative announced for 2024 should see the issuing of an EU guidance on procurement of medicines, better detailing the already existing tools and practices supporting the security of supply. In the meantime, an EU joint procurement for antibiotics and treatments for respiratory viruses should be activated for the incoming winter.

The Communication contains some recommendations for member states and the pharmaceutical industry. The former are called to monitor and fully enforce the supply obligations of companies, to develop effective communication plans, and to consider how national procurement rules and criteria can increase security of supply. Industrial stakeholders should continuously monitor the evolution of demand and supply of critical medicines, assuring to the full the supply obligation under EU law. Early communication of critical situations to regulators should also occur, as well as the implementation of recommendations, both on regulatory flexibilities and on the elements of the pharmaceutical revision that could already be applied.

Comments from the stakeholders

The interested pharmaceutical associations promptly reacted to the EU Commission’s Communication.

EFPIA particularly welcomed the structural measures to address the industrial dimension of medicines shortages in the medium and long term, as the Critical Medicines Alliance. The development of solutions targeting the specific root causes of shortages, and measures aimed at mitigating shortages in the short term should be “proportionate and provide efficient, workable solutions that serve public health needs”. EFPIA asks for the industry to be included in the design and implementation of new processes and highlighted the “missed opportunity” represented by sharing of the information stored in the European Medicines Verification System (EMVS).

In response to Member State and Parliament calls for a Critical Medicines Act, this communication is a positive first step for the security of supply of medicines. Medicines for Europe will partner with the EU to implement these important reforms”, said Medicines for Europe President, Elisabeth Stampa. The associations ask, among others, for a strategic EU reserve of essential medicines, and EU funds and State aid projects to incentivise investments in greener and more secure manufacturing processes for essential medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). Digitalisation of the regulatory system and harmonisation of pack sizes and presentations would be also helpful.

European community pharmacists also welcomed the Communication, as it may help to avoid new, severe medicine shortages like the one experienced last winter. “PGEU’s annual survey confirms that shortages exist in all EU countries across all types of medicines, causing detriment to patients’ health, waste of resources and frustration. Every day, we spend hours managing shortages and finding solutions to guarantee continuity of treatment for our patients”, commented PGEU President Koen Straetmans. As for the common strategic approach to stockpiling, according to PGEU it should be guaranteed that stocks will not be to such an extent as to jeopardize the general supply of medicines, nor they should generate unnecessary waste.

EuropaBio, representing the biotech industry, positively commented on the Communication and highlighted that EU actions should not be limited to essential medicines, but should target also the growing dependency on third countries for innovation medicines.


HERA reports on stockpiling of antimicrobials

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By Giuliana Miglierini

The European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) has published the two final reports, prepared by McKinsey Solutions for the European Commission, describing respectively the results obtained during the first and second phases of the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) feasibility study on stockpiling.

Antibiotic resistance represents a major threat for human health, as many active substances are losing efficacy towards many bacterial species. The first report (deliverables D1–D5) focuses on the mapping exercise run during the project and aimed to assessing the current situation, identifying vulnerabilities, and reviewing the stockpiling systems currently available in the EU and at the global level.

The second report (deliverables D6-D7) discusses the vulnerabilities identified in the previous phase and the potential tools and solutions to address them, including the assessment of available options for stockpiling of antimicrobials at EU level.

Mapping of the current situation

According to the first report, 32 classes of antibiotics were identified as critical with respect to the need to ensure continued access to patients in order to offer sufficient therapeutic and prophylactic options against systemic bacterial infections.

The analysis proceeded further to identify narrower sets of antibiotics most useful to treat infections due to common pathogens with acquired antibiotic resistance: a first subset of 20 substances was indicated as specially relevant as first- or last-line/reserve therapies against AMR pathogens, and from this a shorter sublist of 13 was identified as last-line/reserve therapies for severe and potentially lethal infections.

The report did not identified any critical market withdrawal of antibiotic substances from the EU market, even though some criticalities may occur in some member states. Alternatives with better efficacy and/or safety profiles are still available on the market for the six substances identified as fully withdrawn.

According to the report, stockpiling at the EU level might not have a direct impact on the mitigation of market-driven trends. Improved monitoring of potentially critical future withdrawals would be needed to enable early detection of shortages and establishment of counteractions.

Innovation in the field of new antibiotics is still largely insufficient, with only six substances currently in phase 3 clinical development. These might prove useful especially as the ultimate reserve line of therapy after exhaustion of the currently available therapeutic options. The report suggests that, upon reaching approval, these innovative substances could be considered for future stockpiling or incentives to facilitate launch in the EU.

The analysis of supply chain vulnerabilities aimed to identify higher priority antibiotics as possible candidates for stockpiling. The report highlights that the analysis was “significantly limited by a lack of outside-in transparency”. Potential single points of failure and/or past disruptions in most supply chains were identified for the 32 critical antimicrobial classes, but the lack of capacity data made the in-depth analysis particularly difficult.

Six representative sets of antibiotic substances were assessed, for five of which less than 25% of API manufacturing occurs in the EU. Similar trends have been also observed for the remaining 26 classes. The supply of critical intermediates (i.e., 6-APA and 7-ACA) appears particularly worrying and may potentially lead to a future shortage of that specific antibiotic/class in the case of a shock. HERA report warns against the possible risks related to potential vulnerability to trade disruptions and unforeseen geopolitical shocks, which may lead to a significant shortage in case of failure of just a single manufacturing site, independent of its location.

The feasibility study also mapped the already existing or planned stockpiling systems, so to use this information to better design the new, EU-level stockpiling system. Four different levels were identified, ranging from the EU’s and member states’ systems to multilateral and/or international NGO stockpiles, stockpiles/inventories in the commercial value chain, and extra-EU national stockpiles.

At the EU and EFTA national level, 13 countries reported a national stockpile that includes antimicrobials, even if greatly differing as for the chosen model. The rescEU system was identified at the EU level as the most relevant mechanism potentially useful to complement and/or integrate with a publicly managed physical stockpile of antibiotics.

The Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility (GDF) was identified as one of the international models of interest, together with the US Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The GDF includes more than 2,000 partners and acts as the largest purchaser and supplier of medicines to treat tuberculosis in the public sector globally. The suggestion is for HERA and the European Commission to collaborate with the GDF in case of a TB-related demand spike. The SNS may represent a significant example of how to address many of the criticalities highlighted by the report.

How to better address stockpiling of antibiotics

The second report builds on the above-mentioned observations to go deeper in analysing from different perspectives and targets the possible approaches to the stockpiling of antibiotics. The indication is for HERA to consider using existing initiatives (e.g., rescEU, the EU’s Joint Procurement Agreement and the Emergency Response Coordination Centre) and to work closely with EU member states and other EU agencies (i.e., EMA and the ECDC).

An important warning was also made: stockpiling is just “a short-term mechanism. It does not alter the fundamental market environment. It can only represent one part of any answer to the challenges faced by health agencies including HERA, whether AMR-related or otherwise”.

A sudden and unpredictable surge in demand and an interruption to supply are the two archetypes analysed to better identify how to address stockpiling.

More than 30 potential demand scenarios were considered, leading to the identification of one high priority stockpiling candidate (higher demand for anti-mycobacterial medicines due to a surge of imported tuberculosis cases) and other three important, but not yet prioritised scenarios. These include stockpiling against the accidental or deliberate release of a bacterial pathogen, treating bacterial super-infections due to a viral pandemic, and the potential rapid spread of an AMR pathogen in the current European context.

Stockpiling for supply chain disruptions was also assessed, leading to the conclusion that alternative products are available as substitutes in the great majority of cases. A point of attention is represented by cross-class substitution, that might provoke different side effects for different groups of patients and could represent a potential factor for the promotion of AMR. More complex treatment procedures (e.g., i.m. vs oral administration), higher costs for healthcare systems and organisational issues for providers should also be considered.

Virtual stockpiling to be managed through the new European Shortages Monitoring Platform (ESMP) or the existing European Medicines Verification System (EMVS) would increase transparency of the system. A mandate or incentives to support private sector physical stockpiling was considered as the most feasible option available. Efforts should be made by the EU Commission to better characterise the relationships between the economic sustainability of limited generics productions (e.g. oral formulations for paediatric use of narrow-spectrum genericised penicillins) and the risk of shortages.

Five lines of possible action

The second report identifies five possible lines for future action aimed to strengthen the antibiotic supply chain and improve the stockpiling feasibility. At first instance, it would be important to improve transparency and reporting, so to better enable the availability of targeted preparedness and response measures.

This might include the harmonisation and extension of mandatory reporting of medicine shortages across the EU, the possibility for HERA to access regulatory data from agencies and information from marketing authorisation holders on supply chain setup and inventories in the case of a healthcare emergency situation, the implementation of an opt-out mechanism from stockpiling obligations at final product level, and the introduction of a general extension of reporting requirements for the supply chain of antibiotic products sold in the EU.

The second line of possible action addresses how to lower wastage in existing private and public inventories and stockpiles. Available options include regulatory measures and limited financial support for drug stability studies or for packaging options able to maintain product quality over longer periods of time.

Facilitation and regulatory support for mutual recognition of national level approvals for antibiotics might help to improve the flexibility of existing inventories and stockpiles, so as to better mitigate the shortages occurring in some member states.

Other two complementary approaches have been identified as potentially useful to improve the supply chain resilience of the EU antibiotics market. On one hand, diversified and in-market antibiotic manufacturing capacities and capabilities could be supported by targeted incentives and investments. On the other, the maintenance of reserve/convertible manufacturing capacity for hard-to-make substances might be also supported, so to better face the need to rapidly compensate the increased requests from patients should disruptions occur.