By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) - Some EU countries are on the verge of shortages of certain drugs used for treating the novel coronavirus, the European Medicines Agency said Tuesday in a statement.
The hospitals are running out of medicines mostly used in intensive care units, including certain anesthetics, antibiotics, and muscle relaxants, as well as medicines used off-label for COVID-19.
Medicine shortages have already occurred in the past few years, but recent coronavirus measures have aggravated the situation.
The pharmaceutical industry and hospitals are struggling to keep up with demand due to border closures and export bans, as well as lockdowns of local factories.
Authorities, hospitals, and individuals also tend to stockpile crucial drugs, preventing other healthcare facilities from serving mounting numbers of patients.
To prevent imminent shortages of medicines used in COVID-19 treatment, the European Medicines Agency was tasked with introducing a new early warning system.
On the one hand, the EU agency needs to gather and analyze information on supplies from national authorities.
On the other, pharmaceutical factories will also have to notify the agency's dedicated steering group on future shortages under the new rules. Until now, the industry was only obliged to brief national authorities on upcoming scarcities.
The EU agency also pledged to speed up regulatory procedures for new manufacturing methods in the drug industry.
Since appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 184 countries and regions.
Data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University shows worldwide infections surpassing 1.39 million with over 79,000 deaths. Almost 295,700 people have recovered.