Drug safety should also be a priority

Luc Williams

In recent years, the need to ensure security has increased and has become a necessity also in new areas. Currently, they are treated equally in the military, energy and food spheres. And also medicine, which was largely contributed to by the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the generally unstable geopolitical situation make it clear that supply chains are still at risk of disruption.

Mirosław Skowron, an expert on the energy and chemical market, former president of PERN and former member of the management board of CIECH, said that in the area of ​​fuel security, Poland is safe because supplies were quickly diversified. But when thinking about security, we need to look more broadly at what may appear in the future. Investments in raw materials are long-term. Therefore, you need to know the level of threat in order to prepare for it. He emphasized that this requires cooperation between the defense forces and those responsible for managing critical infrastructure, who will determine possible directions of changes. This is not only about physical protection, but also about cybersecurity.

Especially since, as Rafał Jędrzejewski, deputy director of the operations department at PERN, said, so far we have had to deal with supply disruptions for which we could have prepared. Now it's time to take care of safety in a different dimension. We need to be prepared, as he said, for fighting in our area, for acts of terror. Today, he said, the infrastructure is 100 percent used. So there is no margin for error. Especially since Poland is like an island when it comes to infrastructure. We are not connected to the transmission systems in the West, the connection ends in Germany. So when military operations will have to be conducted from the level of our country, in Rafał Jędrzejewski's opinion, there may be a lack of supplies of raw materials.

Rafał Jędrzejewski / Press materials

So far, we have experienced supply disruptions for which we could have prepared. Now it's time to take care of safety in a different dimension. We must prepare for fighting in our area, for acts of terror, he said Rafał Jędrzejewski

Mieczysław Bieniek, social advisor to the Minister of Defense, deputy strategic commander of NATO in 2020-2013, emphasized that when it comes to military security, we are in an alliance that will react in the event of an attack. But when these tanks appear, they will have nowhere to refuel in our country. As he admitted, the infrastructure is still not ready for such a scenario. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen cooperation between countries, not to think about creating European armies, but about strengthening the complementarity of economic resources to strengthen the NATO system.

Strategic importance of medicines

– For several years, we have been paying attention to the need to ensure drug safety, i.e. a situation in which a drug will be constantly available in a pharmacy or hospital. We were lucky during the pandemic because the second wave of COVID-19 came to Poland with a delay. This allowed the pharmaceutical industry to prepare for its arrival. Domestic companies gained the opportunity to learn from their Western neighbors how complications are treated and to put production on the right track. The support was that as a country we had the infrastructure to do so. All that was needed was to obtain raw materials, noted Sebastian Szymanek, president of the management board of Zakłady Farmaceutyczne Polpharma, adding that when the second wave of illnesses came and the demand for some drugs increased by 1,000 percent, Poland was ready for it. Today, however, he said, there are new dangers on the horizon that may negatively affect access to medicines. Meanwhile, our country and Europe are not prepared for them. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure continuity of supplies, and the way to achieve this is to rebuild the pharmaceutical industry, i.e. to focus on production in Poland.

Sebastian Szymanek / Press materials

For several years, we have been paying attention to the need to ensure drug safety, i.e. a situation in which a drug will be constantly available in a pharmacy or hospital 0 noted Sebastian Szymanek

This is also the right direction in the area of ​​precious metals needed for the development of key technologies. As noted during the panel, Russia has not been cut off from supplies of this type of raw materials by sanctions.

– Europe still imports them from the East, paying $20 billion. annually. He cannot deprive himself of access to elements on the list of 34 precious metals. When they are gone, the supplier will become (Europe – ed.) a technology recipient, losing its sovereignty in this respect – admitted Michał Zygmunt, CEO of Elemental Strategic Metals.

Michał Zygmunt / Press materials

China also threatens European technologies. Since the 1990s, they have been securing mining sources and processing strategic raw materials for their production. Today they are a monopoly in this respect, he said Michał Zygmunt

– China also threatens European technologies. Since the 1990s, they have been securing mining sources and processing strategic raw materials for their production. Today they are a monopoly in this respect. The USA is making up for losses in this area and is taking actions to support economic initiatives and improve access to deposits. Europe, however, still does not do much, noted Michał Zygmunt.

A list of critical metals has been created, debates are held about it and that's it. Support programs are scattered because there is no proper leadership in Europe that would set one direction of development.

– The result is that in key technologies such as microelectronics, wind turbines, hydrogen production, photovoltaics, we are 70 percent dependent on China, he added.

Therefore, according to experts, we must ask ourselves what will happen if China suspends the export of many raw materials. They recalled that after the US presidential elections, there may be an increase in anti-Chinese violence.

– What will then happen in the pharmaceutical industry, technology, and the development of the green transformation. This vision of threat is beginning to reach EU leaders, but slowly, and it has been visible since the end of 2023, said Jacek Bartosiak, an expert on geopolitics and strategy, founder and owner of Strategy & Future.

Experts participating in the discussion admitted that although Poland and Europe are safe today, it is necessary to ensure that this is also the case in the future, in every respect.

– Europe must redesign its development model. This is a very ambitious plan, requiring leadership and reorganization of resources, said Jacek Bartosiak.

Operating time

The time has come for specific decisions and actions. Only these can ensure security in the future. There is also a need for cooperation between the civilian and military sectors. Moreover, continuity of decisions must be maintained. For now, changes are taking place with the arrival of new authorities. Security projects should be implemented, as the panel participants emphasized, beyond divisions.

– Fuel supplies to Poland are secured until nothing happens in the Denmark Strait. We have no alternative delivery routes. We will have a railway left, but how much fuel can it transport – noted Mirosław Skowron.

Sebastian Szymanek pointed out that although the need to ensure drug safety has been noticed, it is still not a priority. Meanwhile, it is not difficult to take care of them. Our country, as Polpharma's president emphasized, does not need 2,000. active substances to ensure drug safety for Polish patients. In times of crisis, and we need to think about such times, 300 to 500 will be enough. In Poland, there is production know-how that can be used to revive large-scale drug production, which means that it does not have to be built from scratch.

– This does not require high expenditure. Building a factory to produce 100 active substances costs PLN 1 billion. Another amount of this amount is needed to launch a factory for medicines that will be produced from them, Sebastian Szymanek calculated.

– Meanwhile, Polish pharmacies offer medicines based on 2,000 active substances – 400 of them are reimbursed by the National Health Fund. Several hundred drugs are used in hospitals. Another 1,300 are in pharmacies, on prescription or not – he pointed out and added that of these 2,000 Only a few dozen active substances are produced in Poland today. This means that 97 percent active substances are imported. 50 percent the supplier is China, another 30 percent. supplied by India and other Asian countries. 20 percent substances come from other countries in the world.

– When it comes to finished products, the situation is slightly better. But not enough. Since April 1, out of 400 reimbursed medicines, 92 are manufactured in the country – he emphasized.

As he said, the moral is that in the event of a geopolitical conflict that will result in sanctions being imposed on China, there may be a shortage of medicines in Poland and Europe. There will be enough for 3 to 6 months, and then there will be no production because there will be no raw materials. Sebastian Szymanek added that he believes in European solidarity, but during the pandemic it also showed its true face. Countries have prioritized drug safety for their citizens. Only when they had surpluses of medicines did they decide to export them.

Sebastian Szymanek emphasized that, as a pharmacist, he is trying to increase the production of medicines in Poland, because this increases the guarantee of access to the most important medicines for saving lives and health. Without medicines, health care will not work, asthmatics, diabetics and cancer patients may be left without medicines. Surgeons may run out of anesthetics, painkillers and sleeping pills. Sebastian Szymanek assessed that the problem today lies in a political decision.

– We cannot expect that it will work out somehow, we cannot believe in solidarity, as we saw during the pandemic. Now is a good time, there will be some funds from the KPO – we cannot wait for decisions – says the president of Polpharma.

photo: press materials


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