Local pharmacies warn of significant drug shortages

Summary

Local chemists are struggling to keep their shelves stocked due to persistent manufacturing and export issues

Out of stock

The leading industry pharmacy association is reporting a widespread shortage of drugs and warning that the insufficient supplies saddle patients and health insures with extra costs.

The General Pharmaceutical Association told the VTM news station on Thursday that 410 medicines currently aren't available for patients. The shortages have been a persistent problem both locally and internationally. Chemists are struggling to keep their shelves stocked due to a lack of raw materials, as well as distribution and export hiccups.

"This is a problem," said Lieven Zwaenepoel, a spokesperson for the industry association. "Especially for people with a serious condition. They are being forced to switch to a different medication that may work differently and they also have to go back to their GP," he said, adding this creates additional costs both for patients and local health insurers like the Christian Mutualiteit and the Socialistische Mutualiteit.

But Maggie De Block, federal health minister, told Het Laatste Nieuws that patients needn't worry. Pharmacies are usually able to provide patients with alternative drugs, she said. If alternative medicines cannot be found on the local market and chemists have no choice but to order the drugs abroad, this extra cost will not be passed onto patients, De Block said.

"The potential added costs will be carried by the responsible entity, so for instance the pharmaceutical company or the distributor," added a spokesperson for De Block.

The list of drugs that are currently unavailable can be reviewed on the website of the Federal Agency for Medicine and Health Products.

Health-care system

The health-care system is federally organised in Belgium. Competing health insurance providers and a proportional contribution-based system ensure that healthcare is accessible to virtually all citizens and costs remain relatively low.
Law - From the age of 25, Belgian citizens and residents – both employees and those self-employed – are legally obliged to have health insurance.
Insurance providers - The mutualiteiten or mutual insurance associations are typically Christian, liberal, socialist or independent.
Services - Refunds are given for services such as doctor’s consultations, prescribed medication and hospital care costs.
1 945

national health-care system is born

13

percent of salary employees contribute to social security

50

to 75% of healthcare costs reimbursed by mutuality