Many EU countries concerned about shortage of antibiotics, mainly affects people with respiratory diseases

Many EU countries are facing a shortage of antibiotics due to increased demand and logistical problems. The Netherlands is also affected by this. A so-called “shortage decision” has already been made for certain antibiotics, which, according to Health Minister Ernst Kuipers, is an exception and will only be used “if it is really necessary,” De Telegraaf reported.

This policy measure allows the government to temporarily control the trade of medicines more strictly, but this is not the only precautionary measure to help against shortages. This decision also means that stockpiling medicines is prohibited, as this will have to be used later to treat patients.

However, the ministry can give the all-clear for the time being, as the situation has not yet reached the point of degenerating in the Netherlands and there are fewer “worrying shortages” compared to other EU countries, according to the Ministry of Health. One of the reasons for this is that many Dutch doctors have so far been rather reluctant to prescribe antibiotics. The reason for this is the fear that taking antibiotics too often will increase resistance to them among the population.

Nevertheless, the Royal Dutch Pharmacists Association (KNMP) already warned on Monday that the number of medication shortages is expected to hit unprecedented highs in 2023. The organization recorded a concerning 1,514 shortages last year; however, the count for this year has already reached 1,179 this year, the KNMP reported.

According to KNMP chairman Aris Prins, “Large groups of people who suffer from heart diseases, gout, or infections can no longer count on their medication being available in Dutch pharmacies every day,” ANP wrote.

Last year, Europe already experienced shortages during the winter season. Even though the European Ready and Response Authority (HERA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave a mostly positive forecast for the development of the drug stockpile in Europe, they noted that there will be shortages of important antibiotics against respiratory infections next fall and winter.

As a solution, European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides (public health) has offered to start a program for joint procurement of antibiotics if needed, similar to the Covid-19 vaccines. In doing so, member states can decide for themselves whether they want to participate in the procurement program.

According to Kuipers, joint procurement of antibiotics is not yet on the agenda. “We haven’t heard anything about that yet,” said a spokesperson for the health minister, De Telegraaf reported.

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