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Securing safe medical supply chains

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has expressed concern about the shortages of medical supplies that increased dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic, due to stockpiling, restrictions on exports, closed borders, and lockdowns. This phenomenon has tended to become more widespread over the past 25 years and represents a threat to health systems, according to the committee.

It denounces an approach based mainly on costs, seeking to contain health expenditures, which has led to the concentration of medicines production in a few countries – restricting equitable access to health – and the relocation of the pharmaceutical industry, in particular to India and China.

The parliamentarians believe that these shortages are a source of discrimination and advocate a human rights-based approach in the health field ensuring quality, safety and fairness in healthcare for all.

By unanimously adopting a draft resolution today, based on the report by Jennifer De Temmerman (France, SOC), the committee called on national authorities and health practitioners to agree on a strategy to make medical supply chains more reliable in order to guarantee equitable access and prevention against shortages.

Faced with the risk of counterfeiting stemming from shortages of medicines, the committee recalled the legally binding nature of the Medicrime Convention and called on States that have not yet done so to ratify it.

In addition, the committee advocated the development of an uncomplicated and resilient health system with a high level of integrity based on human rights, in order to cater for the adjustments needed in response to the climate crisis.

Finally, it welcomed the added value that the Council of Europe’s work brings to the health sector – particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic – and the establishment on 1 January 2022 of the Steering Committee for Human Rights in the fields of Biomedicine and Health, calling for further synergies with the WHO.