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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Germany considers legalising egg donation

A commission on reproductive rights has said the ban on egg donation should be lifted in Germany, with a draft likely to come before the next election.

Germany considers legalising egg donation

Speaking to DPA on Tuesday, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) said he believed a proposal for legalising egg donation would enter the Bundestag next year before Germany’s next federal elections in autumn of 2025.

Donated eggs are used in fertility treatments for women who are otherwise unable to conceive.  

Though the coalition agreement between the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) did not commit to lifting the ban on egg donation specifically, the parties did say they planned to consider the issue.

“We are setting up a commission on reproductive self-determination and reproductive medicine, which will examine regulations for abortion outside of the Criminal Code as well as options for legalising egg donation and altruistic surrogacy,” the 2021 agreement stated. 

READ ALSO: Germany debates legalizing egg donations and surrogacy

In April this year, the commission issued its recommendations, stating that there were “no overriding medical or psychological risks that speak against legalisation”.

The expert panel also recommending following the example of other European countries where this type of fertility treatment was legal.

Germany is one of only four countries in central and western Europe where donating eggs is illegal.

“From my personal point of view, there are good reasons to lift the categorical ban on egg donation in Germany,” Buschmann explained.

Abortion debate

Despite the progress in fertility treatments, the FDP politician does not expect a quick agreement on the reform of the abortion paragraph 218 in the penal code, which effectively criminalises abortion. 

“Abortion raises particularly difficult constitutional issues,” Buschmann told DPA, adding that the topic was a divisive one.

“I see much more consensus on egg donation. Authorising egg donation would be compatible with the Basic Law.”

Abortion remains an illegal act in Germany, though it is exempt from punishment if it carried out in the first three months of pregnancy and after counselling.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP)

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) gives an interview to DPA on February 3rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Pro-choice activists have been campaigning for this to be overturned for years, but face stiff opposition from religious figures and conservative politicians.

After entering government back in 2021, the traffic-light coalition swiftly scrapped paragraph 219a in the Criminal Code, which banned doctors from publicly providing information on abortion.  

The expert commission has since suggested that abortions in the early stages of pregnancy should no longer be criminalised and questioned the obligation for women to undergo counselling.

READ ALSO: Will abortion in Germany soon become legal?

If a bill on egg donation comes to the Bundestag this year or next, it will likely follow the panel’s recommendations of forbidding the trade of egg cells for financial gain, as well as a regulation ensuring that children retain the right to know their parentage. 

It is also likely to follow the Bundestag’s tradition of tackling questions of legal ethics in a non-partisan way, with parliament putting forward proposals rather than the government.