Medicines for Ireland (MFI), the Irish pharmaceutical trade association and the supplier of the majority of medicine in Ireland to the HSE and patients directly, has called for the creation of dedicated air freight hubs across the European Union (EU) to act as primary import and export points for medicines, active pharmaceutical ingredients, intermediates, key starting materials and medical equipment.

Commenting after a Dáil discussion on health and COVID-19, MFI chairperson, David Delaney said: “Pharmaceutical manufacturers rely on capacity in passenger flights to move medicines and ingredients rapidly and securely. With the spread of COVID-19, we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in passenger flights that normally carry pharmaceutical goods. We are recommending that EU authorities create dedicated air freight hubs to ensure there is enough capacity to cover the needs of the supply chain across Europe to mitigate the dramatic reduction of passenger flights.

“Similar provision is required in countries such as India and China which are major exporters of medicines to the EU and due to the global nature of the medicines supply chain, it is vital that an integrated international approach is taken to air freight for essential medicines. We’re asking the Irish Government and policy makers to proactively engage with their European counterparts to secure viable and affordable air freight access for medicines in and out of Europe.

“We’re continuing to work pro-actively with Government and key policy makers on aspects of policy to ensure round the clock continuity of supply in Ireland. We’re also communicating on   daily basis with the Department of Health and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) as well as the HSE, EU Commission and all relevant EU institutions to ensure a solution focused approach is taken to secure a stable supply of medicines to the Irish market.”

MFI member companies which include Accord Healthcare; Aribamed; Clonmel Healthcare; Consilient Health; Fannin; Fresenius-Kabi; Mylan; Pinewood; Rowa; and Teva, contribute significantly to Ireland’s €40 billion annual pharmaceutical and device exports.

Mr Delany added: “Following continuous consultation with our members, we don’t currently anticipate any issues regarding the supply of medicines in Ireland as a result of the COVID-19 virus despite experiencing increase in demand. We very much welcome the measures the Government has taken to date to secure medicines supply, including the inclusion of pharmaceutical production and distribution in the list of essential services as well as the creation of virtual Green Lanes by the Revenue Commissioners to allow for a seamless flow of medicines in and out of the country. Such measures ensure that as an industry we are able to respond to this global health challenge.”

“It’s also important to recognise the significant lengths the staff personnel of our member companies are taking to keep all facilities operating at full capacity during this period. With great support from their families and employers, with increased protections and social distancing measures, they are working around the clock to maintain production and supply levels.”