Pharmaceutical distributors warn that there are products with one-year delays

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The president of the Pharmaceutical Distributors Association, Nuno Flora, says that the problem is not new and that it doesn’t only affect Portugal.

The Pharmaceutical Distributors Association warned on Wednesday about delays in placing products on the market, which in some cases can exceed one year, and advocated the creation of an early warning system for drug shortages.

In a hearing on “drug rupture” at the request of the Liberal Initiative (IL) party, the president of the Pharmaceutical Distributors Association (Adifa), Nuno Flora argued that it is necessary to “greatly improve” the information management system in this area.

The official said that there are several administrative and regulatory procedures, but they are not integrated, giving the example of there being a list for prior notification, a temporary export suspension list, and there will soon be a list of essential drugs, whose ordinance was published in January.

Moreover, only the entities themselves, the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacies and pharmaceutical distributors, know their ‘stocks’.

“What we should have is a national early warning system of ruptures and failures”, to have an advance knowledge of the situations and not act “casuistically”.

For this, he argued, “everything must be integrated in terms of information management in Infarmed,” which is the regulator and supervisor of the area.

The president of Adifa also warned about delays in placing products on the market as a result of production problems and “a certain trend that has been seen in recent years of deindustrialization of the drug sector at a European level and also at a national level.

Adding to this situation was a pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and an energy crisis, which created not only in production, but in the rest of the drug supply chain, “very big pressures and made it very difficult not only in access to the product, but also in terms of time to get product to market.”

“While before we may have had products that didn’t arrive in four to five months, today we have products arriving in a year or more,” he emphasized.

Nuno Flora warned that supply chains are “very fragile and need support”, lamenting that during this period the distribution sector has not had any support from the state or any other entity to cope with the increase in expenses.

“Our calculations for this year, unfortunately, with inflation are much more serious than what we had warned in May and June for the end of the year. It will surely be about six, seven million euros in terms of costs related to the increase in inflation,” he stressed.

Still on the shortage of medicines, Nuno Flora said it is a problem that has “surely been around for more than 10 to 15 years” and that “it is not exclusively national.

The responsible said that, contrary to what was thought, the exportation is not the cause of the problem, even because in the medicines sector it is reduced.

According to Infarmed, in the first 10 months of 2022 the export of about 1.7 million packages of medicines was prohibited.

“Our market last year was 323 million packages (…) So the problem is not here [exports] when we have about 8% to 10% of medicines missing in the market,” he elucidated.

Alluding to the 5% increase in medicines up to 10 euros and 2% for medicines between 10 and 15 euros, Nuno Flora said it was “a first sign” of what the country can do at this level to “make the market more attractive.

“It has to be a path that cannot end here (…) not least because this increase is eaten by inflation itself,” he said, acknowledging, however, that it is the first price increase for medicines in 20 years, particularly.

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