Background Medicines shortages (MS) have become a complex global issue, forcing changes in the hospital formulary and increasing the risk of medication errors. Additionally, problems related to these MS create difficulties for healthcare professionals and require urgent pharmacist-led action.
Purpose To analyse the impact of MS in our centre and to describe the different actions performed by the Pharmacy Service (PS) to minimise risks regarding medication errors.
Material and methods Descriptive, observational and retrospective study performed in a third-level hospital regarding MS registered in our centre from January 2017 to September 2018. The following data were retrieved from the MS listed in the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) online platform and Farmatools management tool: affected medicine (active substances and pharmaceutical forms); inclusion in the hospital formulary; and measures implemented to solve the MS (only when included in the hospital formulary).
Results During the study period, there were 476 medicines affected by shortage problems in our country. Three-hundred and twenty-three (67.8%) active substances were included in our hospital formulary, but only 138 (29.9%) had the same dosage and pharmaceutical form, and consequently, needed to be managed by the pharmacist.
The strategies for the management of MS were:
Changing the provider or buying a different packaging in 55 cases (39.9%).
Using a therapeutic alternative in 13 cases (9.4%).
Medicine imported from other countries through AEMPS authorisation was available in 26 cases (18.9%) but we only used it in 11 cases (8%) because of the need to repack each unit with a translated label and product data sheet before its distribution in the hospital.
Restricted use of available pharmacy stock in 14 cases (10.1%), according to clinical criteria agreed with medical staff.
No action was needed in 45 cases (30.6%) due to infrequent use of the medicine affected and/or enough pharmacy stock available until resupply.
Conclusion A large number of medicines were affected by shortages in our centre. These MS have shown an important degree of compromise in patient care and treatment safety. Pharmacists are required to take urgent action to manage problems caused by MS, which implies greater workload due to administrative procedures, determination of therapeutic alternatives and communication with health professionals involved, so as not to compromise the continuity of treatments.
References and/or acknowledgements No conflict of interest.
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