Aims and objective To compare antibiotic shortages in Europe between 2013 and 2020 and the views of hospital pharmacists on overcoming shortages via antimicrobial stewardship.
Methods A series of European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP) surveys on medicine shortages, including a survey on the future crisis preparedness of hospital pharmacies, conducted between 2013 and 2020 were compared for the type of antibiotic shortages and respective mitigation strategy. These were analysed taking into account hospital pharmacists’ views on antibiotics provided in the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) survey on healthcare professionals’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours about antibiotics, antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance from 2018.
Results Since 2013 there has frequently been a shortage of antibiotics in European hospitals. In 2014, 67% (347/521) of hospital pharmacists experienced shortages of antimicrobials compared with 77% (1032/1348) in 2018, 63% (1158/1837) in 2019 and 37% (539/1466) in 2020. More than 80% of hospital pharmacists managed antibiotic shortages through substitution in 2014 (284/336) and 2018 (786/946), while this percentage was 40% (63/158) and 42% (620/1466) in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Although 72% (870/1204) of hospital pharmacists received information on how to avoid inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, dispensing and administration, only 37% (450/1204) changed their views and 28% (338/1204) changed their practice in steering antimicrobial treatment.
Conclusion Antibiotic shortages affect proper antimicrobial stewardship because of limited appropriate alternatives, taking into account patients’ clinical condition and type of infection. While substitution remains a leading mitigating tool for antibiotic shortages, it carries numerous risks and the potential for antimicrobial resistance and suboptimal health outcomes.
- drug substitution
- practice guideline
- pharmacy service
- drug-related side effects and adverse reactions
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request.
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