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Italy is dealing with the widespread problem of drug shortages

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Italy is dealing with the widespread problem of drug shortages

One of the health problems that many countries have been dealing with recently is the shortage of commonly used medicines, which due to multiple factors, including the difficulty in procuring raw materials, are difficult to find. In Italy, according to what reported by the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA), they are over 3,000 medicines currently in short supply, and within this list there are practically all the drugs generally used to fight the flu. In the list, in fact, we find for example medicines such as tachipirina and aspirin, as well as medicines based on ibuprofen and mucolytics such as acetylcysteine. Evidently not insignificant shortcomings, especially considering that the flu occurs massively during the winter period.

It may also be for this reason that already in November Andrea Mandelli, president of the Federation of Italian Pharmacists’ Orders (FOFI), invited citizens to “avoid unnecessary runs to hoard medicines” and to “contact your trusted pharmacist”. Mandelli had also recalled that even before the summer, the Federation had “reported to the institutions the shortage of some commonly used drugs”, specifying that the same was caused by a “greater use of these products for the home treatment of the symptoms of Covid” but not only. Among the triggering factors, in fact, also the «problem of rising energy costs and expensive fuel which are poured into the manufacturing companies and the distribution chain, since there are no possible fluctuations in the price of the drugs which is decided by the State”. Finally, among the reasons for the shortage also the “effects of the international crisis”, with “procurement difficulties” linked not only to the “active ingredients” but also to the “materials necessary for the packaging of pharmaceutical products such as the glass of the vials, the aluminum film that closes the blister or the shaped plastic to house the tablets”.

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Therefore, it will not be a coincidence that other countries are also grappling with medicine shortages. Through an article of December 17, for example, the The Guardian it said the UK government had issued ‘five new severe shortage protocols (SSPs) to pharmacists in an attempt to compensate for supply problems with the antibiotic penicillin caused by the rising number of strep A infections across the UK’. ‘Germany is battling a dramatic shortage of medicines’instead headlined the German public broadcaster on 20 December German wave, giving news of the proposal made by the head of the medical association, Klaus Reinhardt, according to which whoever is healthy should give the medicines in his possession to the sick who live in his neighborhood. The idea would be to set up real “markets”, which could even include medicines that have expired for a few months. Finally, too in France the situation does not seem to be the best. In an article published these days on France infoin fact, we read that “for several weeks the supply of pharmacies has been under pressure for various drugs”, such as paracetamol and amoxicillin (an antibiotic), which is why it would have opted for dose rationing, while in Brittany two pharmacies would have been authorized to independently prepare amoxicillin intended for use in children.

A solution also adopted by Italian pharmacists, who, as stated by Andrea Mandelli, have taken steps to “make up for the shortages of some medicines of industrial origin, in particular for pediatric use, preparing the preparations in the laboratory and dispensing them without the need for a medical prescription”. Of course, according to what is explained in manifesto by Domenico Di Giorgio, AIFA manager responsible for monitoring, for the “vast majority” of deficient products “equivalent medicines are available” and “in reality the critical products, for which importation is authorized in the absence of equivalents, are just over three hundred”, with “the bulk of imports” which “concerns about thirty products”. However, by his own admission «the trend of increasing shortages is real»: a trend that can only be worrying, especially if we consider that the available equivalents are not guaranteed to be purchased by Italians. “Italy is the country that in Europe has the lowest percentage of use of equivalent medicines”, he declared in an interview with the newspaper The messenger the national secretary of Federfarma (National Federation of Pharmacy Owners) Roberto Tobia, underlining that «every year Italians are increasingly spending important sums, estimated at around 1.5 billion euros, to add the difference in the price of the brand-name drug versus its equivalent.

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[di Raffaele De Luca]

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