As part of its ongoing efforts to address the drug shortage crisis, the German government has taken new decisions that will increase the availability of medical treatments and facilitate the distribution process.
Pharmacists are now allowed to prescribe alternative drugs with similar efficacy without the need for a prior medical consultation. This comes as part of legal amendments that were approved in June. Under these amendments, manufacturers are now required to stock a sufficient supply of several months of commonly used drugs.
- This step aims to avoid the recurrence of drug shortages in the future.
- Sick leave can now be granted over the phone without a specified duration.
As of August 2023, pharmacists are now allowed to substitute a drug with the same active ingredient for patients without the need to contact the doctor again. This is a change from the previous policy, which required pharmacists to obtain permission from the doctor before substituting a drug. The change is intended to make it easier for patients to get the medications they need, even if their preferred drug is not in stock.
Stephan Fink, the head of the Thuringian pharmacists’ association, welcomed the German government’s decision, but criticized the modest amount paid by insurance companies to pharmacists for each distribution.
He explained that every pharmacy needs to invest about two hours a day to look for alternatives of similar quality.
The Law Against Shortages of Medicinal Products (ALBVVG) was adopted in June by the German Parliament at the initiative of the Ampel coalition to address the shortage of medicines.
The law also included the restoration of the possibility of granting sick leave by phone as a permanent step and without a time limit.
The government requires manufacturers to store a stockpile of several months’ worth of high-demand drugs. The stockpile must be equal to the average supply of six months. Previously, only a three-month stockpile was discussed.
In addition, discount agreements on children’s drugs will no longer be made, which were contributing to lowering the price of drugs for health insurance funds as bulk buyers.
Manufacturers will now be able to increase selling prices by up to 50% of the previous “fixed amount”, which was paid by statutory health insurance funds for treatments. The “fixed amount” will no longer be fixed for children’s medicines.
In June, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach pointed out that the excessive focus on the economy has led to a decline in the availability of generic drugs over the years. He described the situation as “unacceptable” and stressed that the situation would be changed and the framework conditions would be improved to make Germany a more attractive place to produce generic drugs.
There has been a recent shortage of pediatric fever and cough solutions, and cancer and antibiotic drugs for adults have also been affected by the situation.
Telephone sick leave was implemented on an exceptional basis during the COVID-19 pandemic, where doctors granted sick leave to patients with colds via telephone calls upon the onset of symptoms.
These options expired in April, but in June, the German parliament decided to reinstate this arrangement permanently and without a time limit.
To get a sick leave by phone, the condition must be without serious symptoms. New cases are excluded from this exception. This aims to reduce the pressure on clinics and patients, especially parents who care for their children.
You can also follow the latest news in Germany today on a daily basis by subscribing to our free notification service.