Delivery bottlenecks in fever juices and electrolyte solutions for children are currently causing German pharmaceutical companies, pharmacists and parents great concern. What is behind the bottlenecks and what needs to be done to prevent similar situations in the future – an overview.

In Germany, pharmacies are currently struggling with delivery bottlenecks for medicines for children. Above all, there is a lack of fever juices with the active ingredients ibuprofen and paracetamol – a fatal situation given the current flu epidemic and the increasing number of corona infections.

“As a pediatrician, I prescribe Nurofen to every second child during the infection season. It is frightening when there is already a shortage of generic drugs. Pharmacies can still fall back on stocks or offer alternative ibuprofen juices, but it is foreseeable that this will soon be exhausted,” says Dr. Kathrin Simmel, a pediatrician from Holzkirchen.

Diarrhea medicines such as “Elotrans” and “Oralpädon” and electrolyte powder are also hardly available anymore. The medicines are part of the basic travel pharmacy of many holidaymakers, are generally considered to be in short supply and are in greater demand right now – in the holiday season. But what is there actually behind the far-reaching bottlenecks in the pharmaceutical sector and how can the problem be solved in the long term?

The primary reason for the national bottlenecks is the currently strong wave of colds and infections, which entails an increased need for medicines. Thomas Preis, head of the North Rhine Pharmacy Association, explains to RTL that the drug stocks of the manufacturers and upstream suppliers are used up faster than usual.

However, the increased need for medicines is encountering a supply chain for medicines that has been unstable for years with insufficient stocks – the origin of the supply bottlenecks is therefore years ago.

Michael Kuck, CEO of the Noweda pharmacy cooperative, also complained about the German drug delivery situation in 2020 in an interview with FOCUS Online. The industry has long been affected by delivery bottlenecks, but the consequences of these are only now fully apparent – in times of crisis such as the pandemic.

The current supply situation is a matter of great concern for manufacturers, pharmacists and affected parents: pharmaceutical manufacturers are trying to meet the increased demand with production technology, pharmacists have to send customers home empty-handed and use a large part of their work to take care of medicines that are not available. Parents are left without medication and feel helpless.

An affected mother told FOCUS Online that she, too, sees the primary problem of delivery bottlenecks in the political sphere. The dependency on China and India is “intolerable” and politicians must ensure their own production of certain critical medicines.

She also questions the national tax policy and the reasons for outsourcing German production to Asia – health insurance companies have to save, domestic production is too expensive.

She also sees a need for action in the area of ​​prevention – taking precautionary measures to counteract and prevent the wave of infections in order not to be dependent on enormous quantities of medicines from Asia. also dr Simmel criticizes this development: “It would be important for us to produce such basic medicines ourselves in Germany.”

The German pharmaceutical industry only recently warned of a further growing dependency on China and India. A current study by the German Economic Institute (IW) and the Healthcare Supply Chain Institute commissioned by the vfa shows that the USA and Europe are heavily dependent on Asian active ingredient manufacturers. 68 percent of the production sites for active ingredients destined for Europe are now in Asia.

This is mainly due to the fact that more and more active ingredients are being produced by fewer and fewer factories worldwide. The majority of these are in India and China. In addition, India processes around 80 percent of the fabrics from China, so that’s where the hotspot is, explains Kuck.

If there are production failures in China, this will have a global impact. Bottlenecks and delivery failures have occurred time and again in recent years. Already in 2019 there were 259 bottleneck reports, at that time the NDR reported. At that time, pharmacists were already increasingly busy procuring medicines that could not be delivered.

Accordingly, one can imagine the impact of the current situation with China’s “zero-COVID strategy” on the supply chain of pharmaceutical products around the world. Persistent lockdowns leave factory buildings empty, production is delayed, the economy stands still.

The consequences can be seen in all areas. Factories are waiting for preliminary products or do not get their finished goods from the factory, the entire supply chain comes to a standstill – we in Germany are also feeling this.

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The current situation in particular shows the urgency of detaching yourself from the Chinese market – and at least building up your own reserves of active ingredients relevant to supply.

But how can dependence on the large Asian manufacturers be reduced? The study authors of the vfa recommend a combination of different measures to systematically strengthen the national supply chains in the field of drug production:

How quickly the measures mentioned can be implemented is anyone’s guess. The government is aware of the problems. But it is questionable whether politicians can change the framework conditions in such a way that production comes back to Europe – this was written by NDR three years ago.