THL's Medicinal Product Wholesale plays an important role in rescEU

Publication date 30.1.2024 9.14 | Published in English on 7.2.2024 at 16.24
News item

More European Union emergency stockpiles are to be established in Finland as part of the rescEU project. RescEU is improving and enhancing the EU's ability to respond to major disasters, threats and crises on a large scale.

The new stockpiles will contain medicines, vaccines, medical supplies and medical equipment, among other things. THL is responsible for the procurement and stockpiling of medicinal products. 

"This is a big and unique task for THL's Medicinal Product Wholesale because we are creating completely new principles for the cross-border distribution of medicines. At the same time, we have brought Finland's strong pharmaceutical logistics expertise to the attention of the Commission," says Toni Relander, Director of Medicinal Product Wholesale.  

Finland has received a total of €305 million in funding from the European Commission for the establishment of emergency stockpiles. Emergency stockpiles are used to prepare for accidents and incidents involving chemical (C), biological (B), radioactive (R) and nuclear (N) materials in Europe. Emergency stockpiles also cover pandemics such as COVID-19 and the disruption to or depletion of medicines and protective equipment in Member States, for example in the event of a terrorist attack or the use of military force. 

At the beginning of 2023, Finland received funding of €242 million from the Commission to establish emergency stockpiles against CBRN threats. THL's share of the funding was €158 million.
In December 2023, Finland received new funding of €62.9 million for the Medical Stockpiling in Finland project, which is establishing a new system for stockpiling. THL's share of the funding is €36.2 million.

The EU is funding Finland's rescEU stockpiling project until 2026. The Ministry of the Interior is implementing the project in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the National Emergency Supply Agency of Finland and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. The Ministry of the Interior is the national competent authority for the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. 

12-hour readiness in emergency stockpiles

There are rescEU emergency stockpiles in several EU countries. They are for all EU countries and form part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, established in 2001. A country can request assistance from the EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre if its own capacities are insufficient in an emergency. Finland may also be a requesting country. Assistance has been provided, for example, to earthquake zones in Turkey and Syria, European countries suffering from wildfires, and to Ukraine since the start of Russia's war of aggression. 

The first medicines and materials arrived at Finnish rescEU stockpiles at the end of 2023. Stockpiled material must be ready to be sent to a requesting country within 12 hours of the host country approving the materials to be sent. This year, stockpiles of pharmaceutical products and materials will increase significantly through procurement.  

THL draws on its experience of tackling health threats and of pharmaceutical procurement 

The new funding will help authorities to better prepare for the various health threats facing the population. The stockpiles are intended for the EU as a whole, but they will also improve Finland's national preparedness. 

THL is continually monitoring and assessing threats to health. 

"We maintain an up-to-date picture of the national communicable diseases situation and guide and develop the national vaccination programme. THL is part of an international network of authorities for the monitoring and control of communicable diseases, together with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the WHO and other international partners. This expertise supports the rescEU project," says Otto Helve, Director of the Department of Health Security at THL.

The stockpiling and distribution of medicines is subject to authorisation. The basic task of THL’s Medicinal Product Wholesale is defined in the Communicable Diseases Act. The Medicinal Product Wholesale puts out to tender and procures the vaccines and antibodies specified in the legislation in accordance with the procurement decisions of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. 

“Through the coronavirus pandemic, THL has gained solid experience of pharmaceutical procurement and national preparedness, which we can now draw on. Some of the medicines being stockpiled are rare antibodies, others are daily analgesics, anaesthetics and other medicines used in emergency care. Antibiotics are also being stockpiled, especially in case of antimicrobial resistance,” explains Toni Relander.

Patient gets help quickly

THL's core rescEU team includes specialists in pharmaceuticals, procurement and legal affairs. They are responsible for the procurement, stockpiling and preparation of medicinal products for dispatch. They also ensure that whoever is receiving the medicines is allowed to do so. 

“As a purchasing unit and part of the supply chain, the Medicinal Product Wholesale has a great responsibility to ensure that only safe and effective pharmaceutical products are stockpiled,” says Senior Specialist Eero Mäki-Lohiluoma.

THL plays an important expert role in discussions with the European Commission. THL provides information on what is possible and important for the distribution of medicinal products in the rescEU context. Expertise is also needed in discussions with pharmaceutical companies that comply with their obligations.

“The most important thing is that the patient gets help quickly. We are doing our part to ensure that patients can be confident that the medicines they receive are safe and work as they should," emphasises Mäki-Lohiluoma.

More information:

Toni Relander
Director of Medicinal Product Wholesale, THL
[email protected]
+358 29 524 7299

Infectious diseases Infektiotaudit ja rokotukset