The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has called for urgent action following the publication of a report revealing the extent of a Europe-wide medicine shortage problem. 

Medicine shortages in community pharmacies are a growing problem across European countries as well as in the UK, The Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU) Medicine Shortages Survey 2019 results revealed on Tuesday (28 January). 

NPA policy manager Helga Mangion commented: ‘Because of heroic efforts by pharmacists, patients usually get their medicines when and where they need them, but long-standing faults in the medicines supply chain too often leave patients waiting.

‘It’s time for urgent action, to reduce the risk of harm and to allow pharmacists to spend more time with patients instead of hunting for stock.’

Far-reaching shortages

All countries that participated in the survey, which included the UK, France and Norway, reported medicine shortages in community pharmacies over the last 12 months. Out of these, most countries said the situation had worsened over the year. 

According to the survey, all classes of medicines are affected by medicine shortages, with the most widespread shortages being medications for the central nervous system, respiratory medication and cardiovascular medications. 

The medicine shortages are believed by almost all countries to affect community pharmacy businesses by reducing patient trust, financial losses due to the time invested in mitigating shortages and overall reduced employee satisfaction.

No reporting system in place

A quarter of the responding countries said there is still no reporting system for shortages in place that can be used by community pharmacists in their country.  

PGEU President Duarte Santos responded to this concern saying: ‘[There is] an existing gap in the needed information, tools and legal options available to community pharmacists in many European countries for providing solutions to patients in case of a shortage.

We strongly recommend policymakers and stakeholders to take note of these striking trends and act upon them accordingly because the situation for patients and healthcare providers across Europe is no longer bearable and acceptable.’