The supply of medicines in Switzerland can no longer be assured in all cases. The measures taken so far have not yet had the desired effect. The federal government is now looking into additional steps to counter shortages of medicines.
Bottlenecks in the supply of medicines (medicinal products and vaccines) are on the increase all over the world, and in Switzerland too. Evidence of this can be found in the lists of supply disruptions maintained by the reporting office of the Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) and private initiatives such as drugshortage.ch. The media and national politics have taken up the theme on multiple occasions and are calling for solutions.
Various groups of medicines are affected, but cancer drugs and vaccines in particular. These bottlenecks and gaps in the supply of medicinal products are primarily due to the laws of economics:
- The economic pressure created by globalisation is resulting in the centralisation of production at a small number of locations.
- There are heavy fluctuations in demand, particularly for vaccines.
- Lean inventory management is leading to low stocks at the end of the supply chain.
- The impact of failures and quality problems in the manufacturing chain is global rather than limited to a specific locality.
To improve this situation, further measures have to be taken in addition to those already initiated by the federal and cantonal authorities. There needs to be coordinated collaboration between the federal and cantonal authorities, service providers and the industry, and a cross-border approach has to be adopted. There also needs to be clarity on what (additional) tools and mechanisms will have the greatest possible impact in terms of improving the supply situation in the long term.
To this end the FOPH has produced a report outlining the interdependencies within the entire supply chain (from manufacture, storage and market access to pricing and remuneration) and proposing a catalogue of measures.
The report was noted by the Federal Council on 16 February 2022. It also approved a comprehensive catalogue of measures for in-depth examination.
Broad catalogue of measures for in-depth review
An interdisciplinary working group (federal government, cantons, industry, research and additional actors) will now review the proposed measures and submit concrete proposals for implementation.
Measures will be looked into where there is national room for manoeuvre (for example increasing the stocks of all scarce medicines kept at all levels of the supply chain (industry and cantons), expanding the compulsory stock requirement beyond essential drugs, or further easing in terms of approval and imports). The idea is also to examine approaches to solving the problem in other countries and existing and planned international initiatives.
Last modification 15.12.2022
Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division of Biomedicine
Therapeutic Products Law Section
Tel. +41 58 463 51 54