The pandemic has triggered a greater interest among patients about Europe’s role in medicine manufacturing.
New research reveals that 7 in 10 patients now want to know where their drugs are made as the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the growing concentration of essential medicine production overseas.
The study found the vast majority (84%) of patients want their government to support pharmaceutical manufacturing investments in their region to avoid over-dependencies on countries outside of Europe.
The study questioned thousands of European patients who rely on regular medication for chronic conditions and found 7 in 10 (71%) are interested in knowing Europe remains as competitive as other regions.
The findings point to the need to rebalance the global pharmaceutical value chain to ensure every region around the world has reliable access to vital medicines.
It comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted problems with global supply chains caused by the manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients being clustered in Asia. While Europe remains strong in producing finished medicines it has lost its leadership position in active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing in the off-patent generics sector – especially for essential drugs like paracetamol – opening up strategic vulnerabilities.
The research by Teva Pharmaceuticals sought opinions from 3,000 patients aged over 25 from France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Croatia and the Czech Republic. All participants suffered from one or more chronic conditions including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, COPD, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and migraine – requiring regular medication.
Richard Daniell, Executive Vice President for Teva in Europe, said: “The jolt of the pandemic acts as a wake-up call that the growing imbalance of the global pharmaceutical value chain cannot continue.
“Patients now really care about where their medicines are made. In the same way that ‘food miles’ have become a key concern among consumers in recent years, patients now want to know more about ‘medicine miles’ when it comes to the treatments they take.
“Europe’s unhealthy over-reliance on overseas active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing has been exposed by the closure of factories and borders. But nationalistic approaches don’t work in such a highly connected and interdependent area as modern medicine supply. Europe must adjust its policies to new economic and technological realities, while expanding its competitiveness and geopolitical position by remaining open and attracting investments.
“Teva supports 200 million patients every day, keeping Europe’s medicine cabinet stocked, as one of the largest of suppliers to European healthcare systems. Today we make 95% of Teva medicines in Europe, supported by our global supply line. And we are investing close to a billion euros in manufacturing facilities across Europe. What’s enlightening about this research is that patients are waking up to these issues and demanding change.
“The race to the lowest-price generic has to stop and Europe’s rather inflexible and old fashioned regulatory regime should be modernized to keep Europe in the race to attract pharmaceutical investments to produce critical APIs and generic medicines.
“With the needs of patients at its heart, a new equilibrium also stands to improve Europe’s resilience as well as delivering a significant economic contribution to the region. There is an opportunity to seize this watershed moment and build a better ecosystem in which a stronger pharmaceutical manufacturing presence in Europe can complement the rest of the global supply chain.”
The research shows that European patients consider such commitments are vital for a sustainable future.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of people think the pharmaceutical industry is strategically important for Europe as we move out of the pandemic, because it can ensure stability and reliability of medicine supplies.
Almost two-thirds (61%) think medicine manufacturing in the region is important to protect European healthcare systems, and roughly the same number (59%) see it as crucial to secure Europe’s autonomy and sovereignty over critical drugs.
The study found 85% of patients see the pharmaceutical sector as crucial to driving economic recovery as we emerge from the depths of the pandemic.
People cited jobs creation and supporting the local economy as the top benefit for promoting medicine manufacture in Europe (57%), closely followed by a desire for better access to essential drugs and reducing reliance on overseas supply (56%).
Furthermore, more than 70% of European patients want to see Europe remain as competitive as other regions and expect their government to take action to support this.
The environment was a top concern among patients with 65% demanding that their medicines be made in way that’s environmentally sustainable.
In addition, more than half (55%) of patients see the benefits of drugs manufactured in Europe linked to the potential of transport reduction-related environmental impact. And over a third (35%) of people think Europe guarantees greener production and respect for environmental regulations than overseas manufacturing.