This site is intended for health professionals only

EU puts plans in place to avoid antibiotics shortages this winter

Recommendations to avoid shortages of key antibiotics for respiratory infections this winter have been issued jointly by the European Commission, the Heads of Medicines Agencies and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Developed through the EMA’s Executive Steering Group on Shortages and Safety of Medicinal Products, the recommendations include monitoring supply and demand across EU member states and encouraging all stakeholders to order medicines as normal. There is no need to stockpile medicines as this can put further strain on supplies, the recommendations state.

Prudent use of antibiotics to maintain efficacy and avoid antimicrobial resistance is also highlighted, with reminders for medical professionals to only prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

Increasing the production of key antibiotics and ensuring manufacturers have sufficient capacity to meet the projected demands will also be a key focus for the organisations.

‘A matter of priority‘

Early projections suggest that if the demand in the 2023/24 winter season is similar to an average level of consumption in previous years, supply to the EU of oral formulations of key first and second-line antibiotics for respiratory infections will match demand. Early action from all stakeholders will ensure this remains the case.

Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety, said: ‘The availability of medicines is a crucial component of a strong European Health Union. It is essential that we take action now to prepare ahead of next winter and ensure that potential shortages of antibiotic medicines are avoided.

‘Today we are taking an important step on measures to address our immediate needs for key antibiotics, complementing the ongoing process to develop an EU list of critical medicines. Operational follow-up by the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority and EMA will now follow as a matter of priority.‘

The key antibiotics identified are amoxicillin, amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, penicillin V, azithromycin, clarithromycin, ceftriaxone, cefotaxime and piperacillin-tazobactam. These are all included in the WHO Access and Watch groups of antibiotics, which emphasises the importance of their appropriate use and availability.

These recommended actions on antibiotics form part of a wider framework in place in the EU to prevent and reduce shortages of medicines. They will complement the process to develop an EU list of critical medicines.

Be in the know
Subscribe to Hospital Pharmacy Europe newsletter and magazine