Shortage of inexpensive essential medicines have complex and multifactorial causes. In Europe, these often involve quality and manufacturing issues, including low profitability of inexpensive medicines and poor reporting mechanisms. In oncology, in particular, where there are often no alternatives to these medicines, shortages pose a threat to patient safety as they reduce adherence to therapy and limit the ability of physicians to provide effective treatment regimens.
Recognising that this issue cannot be addressed by any single country on its own, ESMO organised the meeting in Brussels to bring together Europe's prominent stakeholders on the topic and drive concerted and collaborative action at EU level.
ESMO President Josep Tabernero commented: "Shortages negatively impact both the health of European citizens and the sustainability of the healthcare systems. The situation is dramatically impacting on cancer patients, as the medicines affected by shortages have few proven effective alternatives or no alternative at all. That's why ESMO is proposing a course of action with key steps to be taken in the near future."
Among other measures, ESMO recommends that a common European definition of medicine shortages be created and that EU-level strategic plans and actions be introduced to respond to such shortages. The Society will also advocate that, as a first important step, an EU-wide study be developed on the issue and its overarching impact on the European Union.
"This is a public health emergency," Tabernero emphasised. "The European Union has the competence to address market failures in this area, and ESMO can be a strong partner in developing practical solutions to prevent shortages going forward. I am confident that the discussions in Brussels will help to position inexpensive essential medicines as a key political priority for the EU legislature of the next five years."
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