Shortages of vital medicines are likely to continue for the foreseeable future because manufacturers are unable to keep up with demand, medical care minister Bruno Bruins has warned.
The number of shortages reported by producers has doubled year-on-year in the first eight months of 2019 to more than 2,000. In 2017 just over 500 instances were recorded in the entire year.
Manufacturers are obliged to notify the government of any anticipated shortfall, though in some cases an alternative solution is found before the supplies run out.
Bruins said a combination of higher patient demand and stricter regulatory requirements was putting pressure on suppliers. ‘Increasing numbers of people in the world have access to medicine,’ he said. ‘That is a very good thing in itself, but it creates problems if you only have one or two producers for a particular medicine.’
Last year there was a run on contraceptives when a large batch of Mycrogynon 30 pills had to be destroyed because the drug failed safety tests.
Other medicines that are already in short supply are fludaribine, a cancer drug, and Levodopa, used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Some patients who have switched to alternative drugs have experienced side effects that impaired their quality of life.
Earlier this year Bruins proposed introducing new rules to compel pharmacies and wholesalers to keep four months’ worth of drugs in stock. But health insurers have warned that that could lead to higher costs for patients, a scenario the minister has said he wants to avoid.
‘Whenever there are extra costs the spotlight tends to fall on health insurers and patients,’ Henk Eleveld of insurance company Menzis told the NOS Radio 1 Journaal.
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