Germany facing shortage of cancer drugs: Report

Causes for shortage linked to difficulties in manufacturing, dependence on supply chains abroad, according to cancer association

Oliver Towfigh Nia  | 10.01.2023 - Update : 10.01.2023
Germany facing shortage of cancer drugs: Report


Germany is grappling with a shortage of cancer drugs as a result of serious bottlenecks in supply chains and delays in delivery schedules, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Tuesday.

According to the German Society for Hematology and Medical Oncology (DGHO), drugs for breast cancer are increasingly becoming scarce because of delivery bottlenecks.

“The drug bottlenecks have existed for years, but are certainly increasing at the moment,” said Hermann Einsele, the DGHO’s executive chairman.

The causes for the dramatic cancer drug shortage are primarily linked to difficulties in manufacturing and dependence on supply chains abroad with increased demand at the same time.

In some cases, there is the problem that drugs are pulled off the market for economic reasons.

The most affected drugs are those that have been used in cancer therapy for years.

According to the DGHO, these include the breast cancer drug tamoxifen and nab-paclitaxel, which is also used in breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and lung cancer.

Supportive medicines for cancer patients such as antibiotics and uric acid reducers are also affected by supply bottlenecks.

Last year, out of around 200 cancer drugs approved in Germany, around 10 were "critically missing," said Bernhard Woermann, medical director of the DGHO.

A register for delivery bottlenecks has already been set up in recent years. Woermann called for more production sites to be set up in Europe in the long term.

Shortage of antibiotics

Thomas Seufferlein, a member of the board of the German Cancer Society, said the monitoring must be expanded.

"We really need a preventive early warning system and the appropriate options to avert any supply deficits that may arise in good time," Seufferlein said.

Apart from cancer drugs, there are always shortages of certain drugs. Recently, for example, certain fever juices or antibiotics were hardly available in pharmacies.

Trade unions and pharmacies point to globalization as the cause of the bottlenecks.

According to a study by the pharmaceutical association VFA, around 68% of the production sites for active ingredients destined for Europe are based in the more cost-effective Asian region.

If there are production problems, contamination, or a production standstill, this can also affect Germany.

About 80% of the drugs in Germany are equivalent drugs produced in countries such as China and India.

The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices said last month the unavailable drugs include antibiotics, diabetes, and cancer drugs, and painkillers, and cited the lack of drugs from countries such as China and India as the main reason for the supply bottleneck.

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