EU drug export bans raise concern over insulin supplies

EU drug export bans raise concern over insulin supplies

Several European countries have banned the export of insulin in recent weeks because of misguided fear that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause shortages of a drug vital to millions of diabetes patients.


The head of the EU executive has called on governments to lift such bans, warning they could precipitate dangerous shortages, Reuters reports.


EU curbs on drug exports during the coronavirus emergency mostly cover medication used to treat COVID-19, including muscle relaxants, painkillers and hydroxychloroquine.  Some countries have added insulin to their lists of drugs banned from export.


While no shortages have yet emerged in Europe, industry officials say this has raised concern about the steady supply of a drug used daily by around 60 million people on the continent.

Diabetes patients are usually prescribed insulin for one month, but prescriptions have been extended to three months in some European states, further spiking demand.


Bans for insulin


Insulin cannot currently be exported from a dozen countries, including France, Britain and Portugal, according to national listings reviewed by Reuters. Some states, including Poland and the Czech Republic, were banning its export before the coronavirus crisis because of local shortages.


Most national trade restrictions only apply to distributors, which cover up to 65% of drug supplies to pharmacies. Hospitals are mostly supplied directly by manufacturers, which are generally exempted from export bans.


At the global level, restrictions imposed to tackle the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic are disrupting the supply chain for insulin and other essential diabetes medicines in some countries,” Lorenzo Piemonte of the International Diabetes Federation told Reuters, although he said he was not aware of such issues in Europe at the moment.


“Banning the export of insulin is illogical, it makes no sense,” said Kasper Ernest, secretary general of Affordable Medicines Europe, a body representing pharmaceutical traders that are responsible for around 3% of Europe’s supplies.