PSTU-02 - Ensuring sustainable and transparent access to medicines: Deploying digital technology to address shortages

Great Hall 2
Organised by FIP's Health and Medicines Information Section


Dr Bidhata Khatri, ExCo member FIP Health and Medicines Information Section, India and Dr Michael Hogue (CEO APhA, United States


The health systems in both developed and developing countries alike are experiencing a marked increase in the incidence and duration of medicine shortages. In many developing countries, the under-performance of supply chains and shortage of essential medicines have led to treatment interruptions that may contribute to increased mortality. For example, the increasingly common shortages of antimicrobials are an additional concern to the emergence of AMR. While this threat is acutely experienced in low- and middle-income settings, the consequences of this shortage affect the quality and effectiveness of antimicrobials worldwide.

Medicine shortages are prevalent in many therapeutic areas and not confined to essential medicines as defined by the World Health Organization. Shortages are often rooted in supply and demand-related factors. For example, they can be due to supply-related factors such as manufacturing issues, regulatory issues, logistics and distribution, or demand-related factors such as fluctuating medicine demand, parallel market, tendering, price, and reimbursement policies. Recently, extraordinary geopolitical events (e.g. the COVID pandemic, wars) have further threatened the global supply chains, posing challenges for medicines’ availability. Governments have started to monitor shortages at national levels; however, the capability of the Regulatory Authorities and other stakeholders, which are involved in the pharmaceutical distribution chain and healthcare services, to define suitable problem-solving strategies has been limited by the fragmentation of the supply chains. In May 2017 an overview of eight models for reporting medicine shortages was released by FIP, followed in 2020 by a statement.

While the challenges with ensuring sustainable and timely access to medicines are complex, in this session we are planning to focus on digital tools that could help pharmacists and prescribers to proactively manage medication therapy by considering potential medicine shortages. Such tools have the potential to provide visibility of the medicine supply shortages and can reduce the time required to find alternatives in the daily work of pharmacists. Furthermore, digital technologies may facilitate anti-corruption, transparency and accountability in medicines procurement.



11:00 – 11:05 Session introduction by the chairs
11:05 – 11:30 Coping with medicine shortages: Digital tools in pharmacy practice
Dr Feyzullah I. Mermi, KNMP, Netherlands
11:30 – 11:55 The use of digital technology and public information platforms to mitigate the impact of drug shortages
Dr Yuh Lih Chang, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taiwan
11:55 – 12:25 Panel discussion
12:25 – 12:30 Closing and summary

Learning objectives

  • To describe the complexities of medicine supply shortages, and the roles of the pharmacist in ensuring the resilience of the supply chain and the sustained access to medicines by patients
  • To describe the ongoing efforts by governments, regulators, drug information services and professional organizations aimed at proactively managing potential and existing medicine shortages and, where necessary, mitigating the impact of these
  • To describe the use of digital tools that help manage a transparent, effective and efficient supply of medicines
  • To understand how to adopt digital tools into practice that help with the proactive management of medication therapy for patients by navigating potential and existing medicine shortages

Take home messages

Digital tools are an essential asset in the hands of the pharmacist that enable them to proactively manage medication therapy and navigate the challenges posed by drug supply shortages.