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MONKEYPOX

Spain to stock up on vaccines as monkeypox cases rise to 84

Spain's Health Ministry on Thursday confirmed 25 new cases of monkeypox in the country over the previous 24 hours, adding it would obtain vaccines and antiviral drugs to stem its spread through a joint EU procurement deal.

Spain to stock up on vaccines as monkeypox cases rise to 84
Monkeypox vaccines for the general population have been ruled out by Spanish authorities, with the focus primarily on infected people and close contacts. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

A total of 84 people have tested positive for the illness via PCR test in Spain over the course of May, of whom at least 20 were confirmed to have it through genome sequencing, Health Minister Carolina Darias said.

That’s 25 more than the 59 total cases announced on Wednesday May 25th, and 33 more than on Tuesday.

There are also 73 suspected cases of monkeypox reported across Spain, while on Wednesday there were 171.

In neighbouring Portugal, the tally has now reached 58 confirmed infections.

Spain intends to acquire Imvanex smallpox vaccines and Tecovirimat antivirals — usually used to treat the same disease — through an EU joint procurement scheme to try to stall the spread of monkeypox, Darias said.

The European Union’s Health Emergency Response Authority “is going to make the smallpox vaccine available to Member States”, she said, adding the doses would be “distributed in an equitable manner between member states”.

Spanish authorities have so far said the newly acquired vaccines are meant for people infected with monkeypox and their close contacts, not the general population.

There is no specific treatment but vaccination against smallpox has been found to be about 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox.

The World Health Organisation has said that, as of May 22, more than 250 confirmed and suspected cases had been officially reported to the UN health agency from 16 countries outside endemic nations in west and central Africa.

Monkeypox, which is not usually fatal, can cause a fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

READ MORE: How Spain wants to contain the monkeypox virus

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HEALTH

Shortage of medicines in Spanish pharmacies grows by 150 percent

Spanish pharmacies are increasingly struggling to get the proper supply of certain medicines such as paediatric amoxicillin and some anti-diabetic drugs.

Shortage of medicines in Spanish pharmacies grows by 150 percent

In 2022 Spanish pharmacies experienced supply problems with 403 medicines, according to Spain’s General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges (CGCOF).

Though this figure represents just 5 percent of the total 20,000 medicines sold in Spain, it is an increase of 150 percent compared to 2021 and represents what experts have deemed a “worrying” trend that is rising after two years of decline. The shortages last an average of four or five weeks.

This was the warning made by the CGCOF based on its data on the supply of medicines (CisMED), which is focused on ‘supply alert’ notices provided by almost 10,000 of the 22,000 pharmacies across Spain.

READ ALSO – Reader question: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?

On average in 2022, more than 70 medicines were identified as suffering from shortages per week. The weekly average for 2021 was 28 incidents and in 2020 it was 41.

Of these shortages, experts say they are especially pronounced in medicines for the nervous system and cardiovascular groups, and “very significantly” pronounced with paediatric amoxicillin and some anti-diabetic drugs.

Medicines for the nervous system made up around 20 percent of the incidents, followed by cardiovascular therapeutics, with 19 percent, digestive 14 percent, and respiratory 13 percent.

READ ALSO: Pharmacies in Spain will be able to sell medical marijuana by the end of 2022

Call for calm

Stark as this statistic may seem out of context, however, it does not suggest that shelves in Spanish pharmacies are bare nor that Spaniards are being turned away by out-of-stock pharmacists.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, President of the CGCOF, Jesús Aguilar, soothed fears by drawing distinctions between different types of shortages, one, he said, was “when there is none for anyone,” and the other a lack of supply “when there is none today but there will be tomorrow, or when there is none here but there is there”. 

Spain, he said, was suffering the second, adding that pharmacists can always replace or find alternative medicines. “Citizens have to be calm. It’s under control. We have the problem when it comes to looking for the medicine, not the citizens,” he added.

Causes

The causes of the shortages of certain medicines in Spain are various, but many stem from a combination of the centralised nature of production, meaning some medicines are produced only in certain parts of the world or even single factories, and a shortage of raw materials and packaging from Asian countries where production has been slow to recover from the pandemic shutdown, as well as the low price of medicines in Spain.

The issue is “a multifactorial problem that comes from problems with the increasingly globalised nature of drug manufacturing,” Aguilar said. “This supply problem has been affecting Spain for years, as well as the rest of Europe and the world.”

Farmahelp

To try and ease the supply shortages, the CGCOF has launched a new campaign to expand ‘Farmahelp’, a collaborative network of pharmacies that already has almost 6000 participating branches.

The Farmahelp app allows patients to find medicines in nearby pharmacies when they are unavailable and connects the pharmacy branches so they can update one another about the availability of medicines.

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