The French pharmaceutical industry has expressed its great concern over the risk of gas and electricity shortages this winter and its fears for the supply and production of medicines in France.
Read the article in French here.
The representative of the French pharmaceutical industry, Le Leem, fears that industry players will not be able “to ensure the continuity of their activity” and will not be able to guarantee patients “access to their treatments” in the coming months, A press release published on Monday (November 7) indicates.
Because France is facing a double challenge this winter: the supply of gas and electricity.
Since September 1, the Russian giant Gazprom has stopped delivering gas to Engie. On the electricity side, twelve nuclear reactors are currently shut down in the country.
According to Leem, a shortage of gas or electricity could hamper the production of medicines and access to patient care.
“Faced with this imminent danger, the Leem asks that a clear position be taken at the national level by the authorities”, indicates the organization on behalf of the French pharmaceutical industry.
Last April, the French government published a decree on a possible gas shortage: nearly 5,000 gas consumers could be asked, exceptionally, to turn off the tap in the event of a risk of shortage.
If companies and public services such as hospitals and schools are given priority and exempted from the measure, the pharmaceutical industry is not, and only a prefectural decree can change this situation.
However, “many pharmaceutical companies are currently warned by the prefectures that they are not given priority, both for electricity and for gas”, explains Leem, expressing its “great concern” about this measure.
Due to this situation, there is a possible risk to the production and supply chains of medicines.
For example, an unanticipated power outage of “more than 15 minutes” would take “several hours” or even “several days” for industrial sites to operate at full capacity again, the statement said.
Especially since the pharmaceutical industries generally have few or no generators to provide backup in the event of a power outage for reasons of “safety and cost”, adds Leem.
Moreover, the natural gas used to manufacture certain drugs is a raw material for which there is no alternative.
“It is essential that the 271 pharmaceutical production sites in France are among the priority energy supply establishments,” concludes Leem.
The EU supports the health sector
However, the idea of protecting the pharmaceutical industry from possible gas cuts is developing at EU level.
On July 20, the European Commission presented its “Save gas for a safe winter »establishing four criteria allowing Member States to decide which sectors to prioritize in the event of a gas shortage.
These criteria are as follows: societal criticality, the cross-border nature of the supply chains, the damage that may be caused to the facilities, the possibilities of gas reduction and product/component substitution.
For societal criticality, the Commission mentions several sectors as priorities, such as food, safety and environmental services, and health.
On the other hand, the luxury and automotive sectors are not among the priorities.
Contacted by EURACTIV France, the French Ministry of Ecological Transition declined to comment on the matter. But Thierry Hulot, president of Leem, maintains that access to care for the French is “a public health issue”.
“It is essential that industrial sites of the pharmaceutical industry are explicitly exempted from electricity cuts and gas rationing,” he concluded.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]