European paediatricians sound alarm over medicine shortage

Paediatricians from European countries have raised the alarm over a shortage of medicines for children including antibiotics and asthma treatment, warning it was endangering health.

European paediatricians sound alarm over medicine shortage
This photograph taken on March 23, 2023, shows boxes of amoxicillin on an empty pharmacy shelf in Colomiers, southwestern France. Photo: Valentine CHAPUIS/AFP.

In a letter addressed to health ministers and seen by AFP on Saturday, the doctors stressed it was “urgent to find a fast, reliable and lasting solution” to the problems facing stocks in Europe.

“The health of our children and our youngsters is in danger because of the lack of medicines throughout Europe,” they wrote.

The letter was addressed to the health ministers of Austria, France, Germany, the Italian region of South Tyrol and Switzerland.

It was co-signed notably by Andreas Werner, president of the French Association of Ambulatory Pediatrics, his German counterpart Thomas Fischbach and Laura Reali, head of the European Confederation of Primary Care Paediatricians.

The doctors said it was the responsibility of political decision-makers to guarantee sufficient production and supply to ensure medicines were available for basic paediatric care.

It is crucial to have antibiotics, pain relief, fever and asthma medicines and vaccines available, they said.

Reacting to the letter on Saturday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Twitter that the concerns were “justified”.

A law aimed at tackling delivery issues is currently before the German parliament, he said.

Over the winter, Europe has seen shortages of the key antibiotic amoxicillin and other medications as surging illnesses particularly among children have increased demand for the drugs.

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Why thousands of doctor surgeries are closed in Germany on Monday

Thousands of GP surgeries across Germany were expected to remain closed on Monday as part of a protest against the government's health policies.

Why thousands of doctor surgeries are closed in Germany on Monday

The association of General Practitioners, the Virchowbund, called for the industrial action on Monday. They were joined by almost 20 other medical associations.

The Virchowbund said it expects a five-digit number of doctors’ practices to remain closed throughout Germany. Most will also be closed on Tuesday for the public holiday, German Unity Day. 

The association said it was rallying against “painful austerity measures” that politicians and health insurers have been forcing practices to take for decades.

The protest is intended to draw attention to the shortage of skilled workers, the bureaucracy that doctors have to deal with, inflation and high energy costs that practices are facing, as well as the “austerity laws” of the government.

GPs can no longer provide patients with the care they want, Chairman of the Virchowbund, Dirk Heinrich, told ZDF’s Morgenmagazin.

Due to cost-cutting measures and cuts in services, it is getting more difficult to take new patients on board, said the health expert. Heinrich said the scrapping of the ‘new patient scheme’, which offered doctors financial incentives to accept new patients, had made the situation more difficult and called for it to be reinstated. 

However, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats (SPD) questioned the demands for more funding, saying that on average practices earn “around €230,000 per year after deducting all costs”.

The Virchowbund said Lauterbach only seemed to be interested in hospitals but ignored the hardships of GPs.

READ ALSO: What Germany’s new hospital reform plans mean for patients

Patients who are affected and who can’t wait until Wednesday for their GP to open should use the emergency number 116 117.

“Any patient who has the most urgent need today, such as emergencies, will of course be cared for,” Virchowbund chairman Heinrich said.