MEB Annual Report 2020: Everything changed, everything continues – with a new perspective

The COVID-19 pandemic left an indelible mark on 2020. It would be a year in which everything changed, but in which our regular work also continued in full force. In our 2020 Annual Report we put all events, facts and figures into perspective.

In addition to all the unique efforts on advice and assessment of corona drugs and vaccines, in 2020 we also worked on over 16,000 marketing authorisations for medicines for humans, animals and for novel foods. We continue to play a prominent role at European level. As was the case in 2019, in 2020 most (co-)rapporteurships were allocated to the MEB: 12% of all European rapporteurships. With regard to pharmacovigilance, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden account for almost half of all rapporteurships. Furthermore, at a European level the MEB is responsible for the pharmacovigilance of 99 active substances.

“Over the past year, a lot of work has been done from home, both within the MEB and in our national and international partnerships,” says director Hugo Hurts. “This concerns our regular tasks that kept going at full speed, but also other subjects completely unrelated to the corona pandemic, such as impurities in medicines. A lot of hard work has also been done in the veterinary field, for example at the Veterinary Medicinal Products Unit which has been preparing for the implementation of the new European regulations. Mountains of work were also being done in the background. We hired new employees and onboarded them whilst working from home. And a lot of effort was put into strengthening our financial and IT infrastructures. A significant milestone was the migration of our IT services to a new provider and a new data center, a long and thoroughly prepared operation, with a result to be proud of!"

Director Hugo Hurts and MEB chair prof. dr. Ton de Boer

Powerful amidst the crisis

The corona pandemic inevitably brought a lot of new work. In 2020, we provided scientific advice to research groups in hospitals, start-ups and small businesses about corona drugs and vaccines, and we looked at numerous (corona) dossiers. “For the first time, we did assessments in a so-called rolling review, an accelerated procedure. In record time, our assessors were able to look at all study data as soon as they became available,” says MEB chairman Ton de Boer in the retrospective interview.

Corona and shortages

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, there was uncertainty and concern about possible medicine shortages. “Due to hoarding, the supplies of some medicines in community pharmacies and chemists sold more quickly than usual, for example paracetamol.”, Hugo explains. “As a consequence, pharmacies and chemists temporarily limited the number of boxes of paracetamol that can be provided per customer. These and other efforts helped prevent shortages of COVID-19-related medicines. There were no major availability problems.”

The number of reports of expected shortages at the Medicines Shortages and Defects Notification centre rose 6%, leading up to 3,723 reports on a total of 2,079 different medicines.

The year in overview

Normally, the MEB used to operate in the background. The pandemic changed that: we have never been as visible as in the past year. We also see this reflected in the figures. Website visits grew to more than 1.5 million unique website visitors. Based on their expertise, various MEB colleagues have also represented the MEB in the media over 1,500 times. And with 3.4 million views on social media, our outreach rose to unprecedented heights there as well.

MEB annual report 2020: read it now!

In the MEB Annual Report 2020 you will find a description of the many activities, an overview of our production figures and the financial statement for 2020. We also benchmark our results against the other European countries. This again shows the important role the MEB plays in the European network of medicines authorities.

Whether you call it a special, bizarre, unprecedented or unique year: no cliché really encompasses what has happened since March 2020. The global corona pandemic has had an impact on society as a whole, but certainly also on the work and the way we work at the MEB.