Medicines Shortages

The problem

Problems caused by medicines shortages are serious, threaten patient care in hospitals and require urgent action.

Medicines are not simple items of commerce, they are an essential component of patient care and in the hospital sector they must be administered to the patient in a timely manner. This is particularly the case for patients taking medicines which have a significant clinical consequence when doses are missed, such as anti-psychotics, anti-epileptics, immunosuppressives and anti-cancer drugs.

Shortages of such medicine place the ability to provide timely administration of a particular medicine under threat.

Managing medicines shortages and ensuring continuity of supply can also cause the diversion of significant amounts of the time and attention of a hospital pharmacist from other tasks important in the provision of high quality, safe and efficacious care.

Furthermore, the medicines shortage problem can undermine efforts to reduce costs in health systems as often, in the case of shortage, a more costly alternative must be used – or worse, a less effective alternative.

EAHP's position paper

In 2012, the EAHP adopted a position paper on medicines shortages which outlines the responsibilities of the different supply chain actors. The paper addresses prescribers, hospital pharmacists, wholesalers and manufacturers. Hospital pharmacists should be vigilant and alert to the issue of medicines shortage. Moreover, they should share relevant information of forthcoming shortages with colleagues, including hospital management and prescribers.

EAHP also consider that due to the scale of the problem, its cross-border nature, its impacts on patient care and its relationship to EU law, a European investigation of the problem involving the European Commission, European Medicines Agency, and European Heads of Medicines Agencies, is required.

See the full EAHP statement here 

EAHP Medicines Shortages Surveys

Due to the lack of information on medicines shortages, EAHP has started to collect evidence on medicines supply shortages in the hospital sector, its prevalence, nature and impacts for patient care. The most recent survey was carried out in 2018.

Overall the 2018 Medicines Shortages Report revealed that the current problem has worsened. In particular the percentage of hospital pharmacists reporting shortages to be an issue in terms of delivering the best care to patients has seen a significant increase with 91.8% respondents, compared to 86.2% in 2014 stressing that medicines shortages are a problem faced in their hospital pharmacy.

Detailed information on EAHP's three medicines shortages surveys is available via the following links:

Additional efforts to combat medicines shortages

In 2013, a common position paper was formed through the European Medicines Agency patient and healthcare professional stakeholder groups. The common position paper touches on possible causes of shortages and proposes measures to prevent and manage supply shortages of medicines in the current regulatory framework. A letter to the European Commission was prepared by European pharmacy associations (EAHP, EIPG and PGEU) to request action.

In early 2017, the medicines supply chain stakeholders (AESGP, EAHP, EAEPC, EFPIA, EIPG, GIRP, Medicines for Europe, PGEU) issued a joint statement on information and medicinal products shortages. The recommendations included in this document call for greater transparency and availability of medicines shortage data, early detection and assessment of potential shortages, consistency of reporting, increased access to the information available across all parts of the supply chain, improved data infrastructure, and collaborative governance processes.



Last update: 12 November 2018