The unavailability of medicines is on the rise in Europe and it has a tremendous impact on patients. Medicine shortages occur across all healthcare settings and involve both essential life-saving medicines and very commonly used drugs.
Community pharmacists are very concerned about this phenomenon, which can compromise patients’ health. Moreover, pharmacies and pharmacists invest a lot of resources dealing with shortages which constitutes not only a financial burden but also a loss of opportunity to spend time with other patient-centred tasks and to improve the quality of care.
Today, community pharmacists still manage to ensure continuity of care and minimise the impact on their patients’ health status in most cases. However, several barriers should be removed to further support community pharmacists in this key role, considering that the impact on practice is increasing every day.
PGEU calls for a number of coordinated actions that should be taken at different policy levels to reduce the burden of medicine shortages on the public, healthcare professionals and supply chain actors:
- Ensure availability: All stakeholders and governments must put patients’ needs first when developing business policies, national laws and strategies that can affect the timely and adequate supply of medicines. Equally, effective compliance with EU & national laws related to the public service obligations of supply chain actors needs to be assured.
- Widen professional competence: The scope of pharmacy practice should be extended when medicines are in short supply, so pharmacists can use their skills and knowledge to better manage patient care and ensure continuity of treatment. Shared electronic communication tools offer opportunities for an effective and close collaboration with prescribers in order to ensure continuity of care and patient safety.
- Improve communication: Effective communication frameworks between all medicine supply chain actors and national competent authorities should be set up to ensure that community pharmacists have timely information on a (foreseen) medicine shortage.
- Compensate financial impact: The negative financial impact of medicine shortages on patients should be compensated through appropriate reimbursement and remuneration provisions. The resource investment by pharmacists and pharmacies should equally be recognized and valued.
- Develop effective governance systems: A close collaboration between EU Member States and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is needed especially to improve reporting, monitoring and communication on medicine shortages. At national level, more structural, timely and transparent collaboration models between supply chain stakeholders and national competent authorities must be developed in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of joint notification and assessment practices, and to empower pharmacists in reducing the impact on their patients.
In addition to our Position Paper, PGEU has addressed the issue of communication in the 2017 Joint Supply Chain Actors Statement on Information and Medicinal Products Shortage
s together with the European associations representing manufacturers of medicinal products, parallel distributors, pharmaceutical wholesalers and hospital pharmacists, The recommendations call for greater transparency and availability of medicine 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.