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Coronavirus Europe


Priority lanes for freight transport of essential goods, including medicines, have been authorized by the European Commission as part of efforts to protect EU citizens’ health and ensure that essential goods and services remain available amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The move has been welcomed by Medicines for Europe. “We thank the Commission and the EU for rapidly establishing guidelines for member states to establish ‘green lanes’ for the transport of medicines and related supplies for their manufacture,” the off-patent industry association said. “We hope that the guidelines will be implemented quickly at national level. This will facilitate our manufacturing continuity plan and the flow of medicines to where they are needed.”

Medicines for Europe had previously urged the Commission to create such green lanes – including dedicated border crossings or fast lanes for countries with few border crossings, such as in mountainous regions – to enable the transport of supplies needed for medicines production as well as the transport of medicines.

The association also urged interior and transport ministries across Europe to align both internally and with the Commission to “allow our trucks carrying supplies for medicines production and finished medicines urgently and without unreasonable restrictions across borders.” Citing blockages for trucks leaving Italy at the borders with Austria and Switzerland, the association said this was “a major disruption to critical supply chains that, if unsolved, puts all of Europe at risk.”

“The EU is really turning things around on COVID-19, and is moving to solve problems in close co-operation with industry and stakeholders” – Adrian van den Hoven

Responding to the Commission’s move, Medicines for Europe director general Adrian van den Hoven toldGenerics Bulletinthat “the EU is really turning things around on COVID-19, and is moving to solve problems in close co-operation with industry and stakeholders.”

“In one weekend,” van den Hoven pointed out, “it has re-opened borders and created green lanes for our trucks to deliver medicines, as well as food and other essentials.”

“We are also building alliances with other industries like the chemical industry to make sure hospitals don’t run short of what they need,” he pointed out, “and the European Commission is chiming in with regulatory support as needed.”

“This is what European solidarity is about,” van den Hoven insisted: “everyone pitching in to deliver to those in need.”

Medicines for Europe has already submitted to European authorities a poster that members can place on vehicles for such green lanes as part of efforts to “keep medicines moving to patients.”



“Our 300 factories across Europe are operating at 100% capacity to maintain medicines supplies – both emergency and chronic – to all Europeans,” Medicines for Europe said. “At this time, there are no shortages of medicines in our sector and our situation rooms are continuously monitoring stock levels and adapting production according to health needs.”

EU-Level Co-Ordination Is Needed

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said EU measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak “will be effective only if we co-ordinate on the European level,” emphasizing that “we have to take exceptional measures to protect the health of our citizens.”

The border measures outlined by the Commission – which “set out principles for an integrated approach to an effective border management to protect health while preserving the integrity of the internal market” – were needed to “make sure goods and essential services continue to flow in our internal market,” von der Leyen said, insisting that “this is the only way to prevent shortages of medical equipment or food.”

“Free circulation of goods is crucial to maintain availability,” the Commission pointed out. “This is particularly crucial for essential goods such as food supplies including livestock, vital medical and protective equipment and supplies. More generally, control measures should not cause serious disruption of supply chains, essential services of general interest and of national economies and the EU economy as a whole.”

The Commission guidance also directs member states to “facilitate the crossing of frontier workers, in particular but not only those working in the healthcare and food sector, and other essential services.”

“It is not only an economic issue,” von der Leyen said. “Our single market is a key instrument of European solidarity. I am in discussion with all member states so that we confront this challenge together, as a Union.” 

Precautionary Safety Measures Should Replace Quarantine For Drivers

“Our companies are prioritizing health and safety as part of our industry business continuity plan,” Medicines for Europe said, noting that “we will share best safety practice among our companies to achieve the best outcome.”

“We are thankful to our employees and drivers/logistics for their efforts to continue working throughout this crisis.”

However, Medicines for Europe said that quarantine requirements restricting the movement of truck drivers from Italy were currently posing a challenge, slowing the shipment of goods out of the country “and notably active pharmaceutical ingredients to our medicine factories.” Italy is a major supplier of APIs for the European market.

“As the outbreak spreads, more truck drivers of different nationalities could be subject to quarantine measures, such as Spanish drivers – which will mean that eventually we could run out of drivers allowed to cross borders,” the association cautioned.

“We strongly advise that precautionary safety measures replace quarantines for truck drivers,” Medicines for Europe suggested, noting that “some countries have introduced such measures that could serve as guidelines.”

The association also said that technicians needed to repair machinery in factories “should receive a dispensation to cross internal EU borders.” As factories were “running at full capacity,” Medicines for Europe highlighted, “the maintenance of critical production equipment becomes ever more critical.”

There was also a “growing challenge with air freight into the EU which is important for the supply of materials for our production,” the association noted. “We may need a co-ordination mechanism to get those supplies to different EU countries on a national or a regional basis.”

“This is particularly challenging for smaller manufacturers to manage,” Medicines for Europe said. “We are consulting with our national associations on how this could be managed.”

“We need to secure regular and predictable flights between the EU and third countries and priority space allocation for essential goods like medicines, including APIs and ingredients, and other related healthcare products,” the association insisted.

Medicines for Europe emphasized that the European off-patent industry was “ready to co-ordinate as closely as possible with the EU, and in parallel at national level, to keep the flow of medicines to all countries throughout the crisis.”

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