Background Internationally, drug shortages cause increasing concern. For patients it may impose a significant effect on their safe use of medicines. For pharmacists it is time-consuming to get trustworthy information.
Purpose With a central approach on the investigation of drug shortages, pharmacists get reliable and up-to-date information. Besides, solutions can be suggested. If there is a shortage of a necessary drug, proper action can be taken by all pharmacies.
With the data, trends in drug shortages can be signalled.
Materials and Methods In 2004 the Royal Dutch Pharmacists Association (KNMP) launched the website Farmanco: www.farmanco.knmp.nl. It provides pharmacists with up-to-date information on drug shortages in The Netherlands. Drug shortages are reported early and proper action can be taken. It provides information about the cause and duration of the shortage and a possible solution such as substitution or a pharmaceutical alternative.
Farmanco data from 2004 till 2011 were analysed to get an overview of the scale of the problem and more insight into the causes and solutions.
Results Through the years, the Farmanco website has become relevant to all concerned parties for up-to-date information. Visits to the website have increased to about 600 visitors on a weekday.
From 2004 till 2011 the Farmanco website published information on more than 1400 products.
Drug shortages have increased in frequency from 91 reported shortages in 2004 up to 242 in 2011.
The duration of a shortage has increased from 139 days (2004) to 254 days (2010).
Temporarily shortages are mainly caused by production problems (52%), whereas permanent shortages usually have an economic reason (69%).
The solutions have mainly been substitution (62%), a pharmaceutical alternative (25%) or pharmaceutical compounding (2%). In 1% of the cases a solution was impossible.
Conclusions Farmanco gives pharmacists up-to-date information on drug shortages in The Netherlands.
Finally, trends in drug shortages can be signalled.
No conflict of interest.