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Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe – our views

Richard Tunnicliffe, McKesson EU’s operations director, gives his thoughts on the pharmaceutical strategy for Europe.

The European Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe published last week (25th November) is intended to ensure robust supply of medicines across the continent so that patients have access to the medication they need, when they need it. As a healthcare company with full line distribution operations across Europe, this goal aligns closely with our own objectives and any steps that facilitate access to medicines are very welcome. 

Despite the severely testing circumstances of the last few months and the impact of the global pandemic, Europe’s medicines supply chain has held up surprisingly well thanks to the relentless efforts of full line distributors.  I’m also very proud of the role that McKesson Europe businesses have played in that and the superb efforts of our frontline teams throughout 2020. On the frontline of this epidemic, our distribution centres from Ireland to Slovenia, Norway to Portugal continue to play a critical role in ensuring access to the medications our customers and their patients need during this challenging time.

Businesses like ours had to adapt rapidly to maintain service, re-work our operations and implement changes in record time. This agility and focus, along with the dedication of our people, enabled us to provide the safe and steady supply of essential medicines. But there are still lessons to be learned and a crisis-resilient pharmaceutical supply chain underpins a stronger European Health Union, as outlined by President von der Leyen.

Stock shortages are an issue that has beset the pharmaceutical industry for years and leave healthcare systems vulnerable. The reasons behind this issue are complex and it makes sense that the EU plays a more active role in monitoring and mitigating shortages in the future. Patient care remains at the heart of all our decision-making and, like other full-line wholesalers, we will continue to work with manufacturers, EU Institutions and other partners to ensure we provide a consistent supply of medicines, when and where they are needed. A system of earlier notification of shortages of critical medicines should help, though to be workable and to prevent administrative delays, I’d suggest that this list is limited to high risk products and is supported with input from relevant players across the supply chain.

The next challenge for McKesson is the distribution of the long-awaited Covid-19 vaccines. We are prepared for the challenges posed by the complex nature of the various options currently awaiting regulatory approval. We have the infrastructure and expertise to help store, distribute and deliver these life-saving and life-affirming medications and we are already working with some national governments and public health authorities.

It’s what we do.