European energy crisis may portend US drug shortages
Facing winter, aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, a looming recession, soaring energy and transportation costs, and dwindling gas reserves due to Russian supply cuts, some European companies are shuttering plants or scaling down production, fueling fresh fears of essential-drug shortages, according to a new report from the Israel-based drug maker Teva.
While Europe has stockpiled 90% of the natural gas it needs for this winter, the report says that continued deficits could lead to spikes in drug prices in the near term and further disrupt the flow of essential medicines to the United States in the next 5 to 10 years. European transportation costs have also risen 500% since the pandemic began.
Essential drugs are usually generic and, therefore, low profit, meaning that only the most efficient suppliers can remain competitive. “In Spain for example, and while production costs have risen at least 10% as a result of 150%, 112%, and 93% rises in the cost of gas, electricity, and water, respectively, absorbing this rise in manufacturing costs immediately compromises the country competitiveness of essential medicines production,” the Teva report said.
The report cited the recent shortage of the breast-cancer drug tamoxifen after the only European active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) maker stopped producing it because it was no longer economically feasible. As a result, there was no European supply source and only a few outside of Europe. Other recent related shortages have included some antibiotics and over-the-counter painkillers in Europe.
The energy crisis has also led to natural-gas stockpiling and austerity measures in Asia, which supplies most of the world’s APIs and relies on Russia for 80% of its crude oil and 45% of its natural gas.