Title: How should drug shortages be defined? A review
Authors: De Weerdt, Elfi ×
Pauwels, Kim
Preece, David
Price, Richard
Simoens, Steven
Casteels, Minne
Huys, Isabelle #
Issue Date: Mar-2015
Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group
Host Document: European Journal of Hospital Pharmacy - Science and Practice vol:22 issue:Supplement 1 pages:A77-A78
Conference: EAHP 2015 Congress edition:20 location:Hamburg date:25-27 March 2015
Article number: DD-015
Abstract: Background: Drug shortages are currently on the rise. In-depth investigation of the problem of drug shortages is necessary, however, a variety of definitions for ‘drug shortages’ are adopted by different organisations, e.g. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Society of Hospital Pharmacies (ASHP). For international comparison, it is important to clearly denote which definition is used by the national authorities or by (inter)national organisations.
Purpose: The objective of this study is to identify and compare different definitions and analyze the overlap and missing info in each definition.
Methods: A literature review was performed searching scientific databases MEDLINE and Embase for definitions of drug shortages. Grey literature, such as websites and documents of (inter)national drug agencies, were also incorporated.
Results: More than 15 different definitions for drug shortages were identified. Articles in the scientific literature refer often to existing definitions. Only a few articles describe their own definition. After comparison of the definitions some overlap is observed. Sometimes drug shortages are defined as situations where a drug is undeliverable for a certain period; this period ranges from one day until 20 days. However, the delay of treatment for infectious diseases for 20 days will have serious impact for patients. Other definitions only consider those drugs used for the treatment of serious diseases or drugs for which no alternative is available; this underestimates the size of the problem.
Conclusion: The ultimate goal is to formulate a general European definition for reporting drug shortages, which is essential for international comparison. Indicating a time limit in the definition is an essential element for the comparison of national reported drug shortages. This time limit might be even one day to warrant patient’s health. A definition for drug shortages covering all type of drugs is crucial to acknowledge the size of the problem.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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