Strategic drug stocks ‘shambles’ – association president

Portugal should take leaf out of American book

The president of APIFARMA, the association of the Portuguese Pharmaceutical Industry has lambasted the “shambles” that is Portugal’s strategic medicines reserve.

João Almeida Lopes has been in parliament, addressing the health committee at the request of Iniciativa Liberal on the country’s current shortage of medicines.

He said the whole management concept here is a shambles, with a great deal to learn from, for example, the system in America where companies are the ones that ensure drug stocks.

“The American government defines the strategic reserve and contracts with the producers of each product, makes a 10-year contract, and says, for example, that it wants 500,000 units of paracetamol for the country. This company must always have that availability, but the stock will rotate,” he said, stressing that “in this case, the company is always selling, but it must always have that quantity in stock.

“This is a much simpler mechanism, which companies would be grateful for, at the most, they would raise their security stocks a little, it would be a little more expensive, but it would be a much more intelligent system, much more practical and effective, and companies would be obliged to manage the strategic reserve”, he said.

Portugal’s practice of placing medicines from the strategic reserve in storage is effectively like “waiting for a nuclear war, which we hope never comes”.

In the process, medicines pass their expiry date, have to be destroyed, and then new ones purchased.

Quizzed about the reasons for the lack of medicines available, Almeida Lopes pointed to several factors, stressing that price is only part of the problem. A large issue is the loss of productive capacity in Europe – and in Portugal – over the past 20 years.

In this regard, he believes that much more should have been made of the RRP (bazooka of post-pandemic recovery funding from Brussels).  “It would have made sense to think about doing something in Portugal in terms of active ingredients, challenging national-based companies, or not” to make an industrial unit for the production of active ingredients.

He explained “the French have jumped in to make a factory for paracetamol,« (…) “sometimes opportunities are missed”.