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HEALTH

Spain reports second monkeypox death

Spain on Saturday reported its second monkeypox-related death, one day after announcing what is believed to be the first fatality linked to the current outbreak in Europe.

A photograph shows doses of Imvanex vaccine,
A photograph shows doses of Imvanex vaccine, a smallpox vaccine that has been found to protect against monkeypox. ALAIN JOCARD / POOL / AFP

“Among the 3,750 patients… 120 have been hospitalised and two have died,” the Spanish health ministry said in a report, without specifying the date of the second death.

It said the victims were “two young men”, and that studies were under way to gather more “epidemiologic information” on both cases.

READ ALSO: Spain reports first monkeypox-related death in Europe

According to the health ministry’s emergency and alert coordination centre, 4,298 people in Spain have been infected, making it one of the world’s hardest-hit countries.

The announcement came after Brazil also reported its first monkeypox-related death on Friday, with previous fatalities confined to Africa where the virus is endemic and was first detected in 1970.

It is unclear if monkeypox caused any of the three deaths, with Brazilian authorities saying its deceased patient suffered from other serious conditions.

The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a global health emergency, the highest alert level it can sound.

Most infections are in Europe, where 70 percent of new cases have been detected since early May, according to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The WHO said on Saturday that more monkeypox-related deaths could be expected in Europe.

“With the continued spread of monkeypox in Europe, we will expect to see more deaths,” Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at WHO Europe, said in a statement.

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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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