“For more than five years, reports of tensions by laboratories and pharmacies to the ANSM have been constantly increasing”

DObviously, the patient will never have worn his name so well. Not content with being inflicted dozens of hours hanging around in the emergency room corridors, he is now forced to wait to receive the requested medication. The affair took off in the media when the National Medicines Safety Agency (ANSM) officially recognized on Friday 18 November, which many had already seen in pharmacies: amoxicillin is missing on the counters. This very common antibiotic, especially among children in its drinkable form, is in “supply voltage”. He is not the only one. Since the health crisis, the number of drugs subject to such shortages has exploded. In 2021, the ANSM listed 2,160. This is three times more than before the Covid-19 pandemic. Tensions that are not unique to France.

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This new case is an opportunity to recall three essential things, well known to specialists. The first is that these supply problems, such as emergency room waits, do not date from the health crisis. For more than five years, the (mandatory) reports of tensions by laboratories and pharmacies to the ANSM have been constantly increasing. So much so that in September 2019, the Minister of Health at the time, Agnès Buzyn, had introduced concrete measures to secure supplies into the Social Security financing law of 2020 and ordered, in the process, a report on the matter to the former boss of Polytechnique Jacques Biot, awarded in January 2020.

Multiply suppliers

Second element, as this report and the work of economists remind us, in particular within the framework of France Strategy, the questions of shortage, even of sovereignty, are not so much linked to issues of location of production as of diversification of supplies. . Transferring from India or China to Europe the current oligopoly which produces 80% of the active ingredients of medicines will not solve the problem of safety in the event of an accident. We must multiply the suppliers.

Read the survey (May 2020): Article reserved for our subscribers Coronavirus: why France is having so much trouble getting medicines

Finally, the third key point, the shortages, paradoxically, affect ordinary medicines, which are easy to produce, more than advanced ones, such as anti-Covid vaccines. Because the former no longer interest the large laboratories, nor even the authorities who sometimes set selling prices so low that they lead to the fragmentation of the value chain and to situations of virtual monopoly on certain links sometimes located at the end of the world. It is necessary to save the ordinary infantrymen from the pharmacy, and it will not be free.

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