File: Pills. AFP/Justin Sullivan
AMSTERDAM - While the world waits for a coronavirus vaccine, medicines used to deal with the symptoms of the disease are increasingly in critically short supply in Europe, the worst-hit continent.
From sedatives needed to intubate patients struggling to breathe to anti-malarial drugs heavily backed by US President Donald Trump, the COVID-19 pandemic is eating up stocks.
The European Medicines Agency said that the "continued availability of medicines, in particular those used for patients with COVID-19, is of critical concern for EMA".
"Some EU Member States have indicated that they are starting to see shortages of certain medicines used for patients with COVID-19 or are expecting such shortages to occur very soon," the Amsterdam-based regulator said in a statement.
Europe is the continent most heavily affected by the disease and the strain is showing on hospitals dealing with a wave of patients suffering from coronavirus.
Nine major European hospitals launched an appeal for help at the end of March, asking for international cooperation to guarantee a steady supply of medicines for the disease.
They warned in particular of a shortage of vital drugs for the resuscitation of patients including muscle relaxants, sedatives and painkillers, which are being used up rapidly with "insufficient or non-existent" restocking because of the pandemic.
Doctors in Italy, the country hardest-hit by the virus, also warned last week that limited stocks of the two drugs could wreck plans to use them in clinical trials.
Similar concerns have been raised about a combination of two HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir.