The crisis surrounding the new corona virus has broken supply and logistics chains. The supply of medicinal products is also affected. The responsible Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) has now issued a “General Order”. This is aimed at pharmaceutical wholesalers and de facto prescribes that certain medicines must be quota.
This restriction is made possible by a relatively new law that passed the Federal Council only last week. In its order, the BfArM announced that “there is currently an excessive stockpiling of individual market participants with medicines”, which “leads directly to an unequal distribution”. For this reason, wholesalers are no longer allowed to deliver “pharmaceuticals beyond normal needs” to pharmacies.
The order does not apply to all medicinal products, but only to those that are relevant to the supply, i.e. very important for patient care, get ranked. The delivery of these drugs should be based on the sales volumes of the previous year. Exceptions may be made in justified exceptional cases. The rules also apply to hospital pharmacies.
Hamster purchases of medicines
Normally, pharmacies are now only allowed to receive the supplies for four weeks; for active substances used in the coronavirus epidemic, stocks last for eight weeks. Pharmaceutical companies must make goods available to wholesalers for two weeks. The BfArM does not rule out further orders to ensure adequate care.
More and more pharmacies are reporting that not only are respiratory masks or disinfectants missing, but also basic ingredients such as paracetamol. Apparently, delivery bottlenecks on the part of the raw material suppliers are not responsible for this, but simply hamster purchases by customers.
The active ingredient ibuprofen had recently come under discussion; consideration has been given to whether it could have adverse effects in patients with the novel coronavirus. So far, no profound scientific evidence for this is known. Nevertheless, people are now stocking paracetamol instead.
According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute responsible for vaccines, there are also bottlenecks in the pneumococcal vaccines Prevenar 13 and Pneumovax. The Robert Koch Institute and the Federal Ministry of Health recommend pneumococcal vaccination for high-risk groups in order to avoid possible double infections with the novel coronavirus and the pneumococci, which are also dangerous for the lungs. This recommendation applies especially to people who are older than 60 years.
There are also problems in wholesale. The Mannheim pharmaceutical wholesaler Phoenix had already announced to pharmacies that it would have to limit the service in the coming weeks and justified this with prospective staff shortages. The demand volume has risen. Pharmacies that would order goods worth less than 25,000 euros a month would have to pay a service fee of 250 euros. There may also be delays in delivery.
Basically, Germany is considered vulnerable to the supply of medication. The pharmaceutical market in Germany depends on the drip from emerging countries when it comes to the supply of vital active ingredients. If you buy common pain relievers in the pharmacy, the variety of brands is quickly misleading. Because while there are many suppliers, the active ingredients come from very few factories; many of them are in China or India.
Globalization in the pharmaceutical market is not a new phenomenon. Bayer began producing aspirin in Shanghai in 1936, Pfizer opened a location in Panama in 1951, and Novartis (then Ciba-Geigy) has also been producing in Batam in Indonesia since 1995.