Background The pharmaceutical market has always faced several constraints over the years. Nowadays, more than ever, drug shortages have reached critical levels in European countries. Importing medicines usually implies more paper work, different logistics, higher pricing and higher storage costs. Shortages occur not only because the medicine may be sold out but also because there is no marketing authorization. This may affect potentially all drug classes, raw materials and medical devices. Importation procedures in Portugal require annual authorization from the National Medicines’ Agency. Rational and cost-effective procurement of medicines in foreign countries can be a challenge for hospital pharmacists.
Purpose The objective is to analyse, classify and evaluate the consumption and costs of medicines imported over the last five years.
Materials and Methods Retrospective analysis of the importation processes and records of imported medicines during the period of 2007 to 2012.
Results During the period of study 577 importation processes were developed (115 processes a year). About 80% of these medicines are recommended by the Portuguese National Hospital Pharmacy Formulary and the drug classes most involved were central nervous system, antimicrobial and cardiovascular drugs. The mean price per unit rose 1.2% since 2007. In 2012 suppliers are mainly industry/manufacturers while in 2007 there were wholesalers and legal representatives in Portugal. The process of procurement and regulatory issues regarding the importation takes about 14 pharmaceutical hours/week.
Conclusions Importation of medicines at the hospital level is today more often part of the daily tasks of pharmacists. Because the legal framework and logistics are different it is helpful if pharmacists have experience in this matter. The increase in the mean pricing of only 1.2% was possible specifically because intermediates in the supply chain were reduced.
No conflict of interest.
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