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Consumers stock up on medicines

Frankfurt / Main (dpa) - Many consumers in Germany have stocked up on medicines out of concern about the corona virus. In March, the demand for non-prescription drugs rose sharply and gave pharmaceutical companies a boom.

This was reported by several drug manufacturers when asked by the dpa. The rush in pharmacies is sometimes pushing logistics in the industry to its limits and fueling the debate about drug delivery bottlenecks.

"In the last few weeks we had to cope with the sometimes three times the order quantity across our entire portfolio," explained the Ratiopharm parent company Teva in Ulm.

The demand for over-the-counter medicines was much higher than usual in March, especially for products containing paracetamol and vitamin preparations. In individual cases there were delays in delivery. Teva has not only increased capacity in production, logistics also work in three instead of two shifts.

According to the company, Bayer is also seeing higher demand for drugs - especially for dietary supplements and preparations for colds and allergies. According to the DAX company, they are “very well able” to cope with the rush, but ask consumers to limit themselves to the usual quantities when buying.

Even if self-therapies with painkillers against Corona are controversial and there has been contradicting advice: The rush of consumers in pharmacies has been going on for weeks.

"The demand for medicines and people's insecurity is high," reported the industry association ABDA recently. In the case of cold and pain relievers, there are many preparations from different manufacturers and therefore an alternative in case of doubt. There is no reason to hoard medicines.

The Hessian drug manufacturer Stada is also feeling the strong demand: for cold medicines, including Grippostad, it was 50 percent higher in March, and for immune preparations it was three times as high as in usual months. The industry giant GlaxoSmithKline, known for the pain ointment Voltaren, also reported a rush for nasal sprays, nasal drops and sore throats in the past four weeks.

In the case of sales of some funds, there are increases between 30 and 40 percent, according to the British provider. And the French manufacturer Sanofi stated that consumers in Germany had increasingly stocked up on over-the-counter medicines just before the exit restrictions.

The rush puts the pharmaceutical industry in distress. "In the case of extremely high individual orders, we intervened to ensure a nationwide supply over time," said Teva, for example. And Stada said that inventories had been increased and that more than 50 million euros had been invested worldwide in additional active ingredients and the manufacture of finished products.

The industry can still not absorb everything: The delivery bottlenecks for drugs have worsened with the corona crisis, announced the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM).

The authority currently has almost 380 scarce funds - in November there were still 290. However, there are around 103,000 approved drugs in Germany. Since there were hamster purchases due to the pandemic, the BfArM has asked pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers not to deliver drugs to pharmacies beyond normal needs, for example. That should avoid an imbalance in the market.

With the corona crisis, criticism of drug delivery bottlenecks has also become louder. They already existed in previous years, but now problems are coming to light more clearly. Many active ingredients for medicinal products are manufactured in China and India for cost reasons - for example for antibiotics and simple copycat drugs.

In the Far East, production is concentrated in a few companies. If production is temporarily idle there or if there are pharmaceutical recalls due to contamination, there is a hitch in the supply chain. The corona crisis is also putting the supply chains under pressure: The prices of active ingredients and logistics costs have "increased significantly worldwide," according to the Federal Association of Drug Manufacturers (BAH).

In times of the pandemic, calls for more active ingredient production in Europe are therefore louder. But then the German health care system would incur higher costs, the Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI) pointed out. Because in Germany you cannot produce as cheaply as in China. However, it has not yet been clarified who should assume the higher costs.