The European Union has launched a European Medicines Shortages Research Network to look at the causes of medicines shortages and their impact on patients.
Eighteen EU countries have signed up so far to the four-year programme, an initiative of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (CoST), which supports cooperation among researchers across Europe. More are expected to join and non-EU countries are able to attend meetings as observers.
The research network will explore the reasons for drug shortages in both primary and secondary care, including whether countries face similar or different issues, and it will then make recommendations on how medicines shortages can be prevented or minimised. The ultimate aim is to develop a set of principles that can be adopted across the EU.
Working groups have been set up to address a number of areas: the landscape of medicines shortages; manufacturing-related shortages; logistics-related shortages; therapeutic options and substitutions; and the impact of shortages on outcomes.
David Stead, former specialist procurement pharmacist at NHS South West, is chairing the logistics working group, supported by another UK representative Jane Nicholson, executive director of the European Industrial Pharmacists Group.
Stead said European countries procure medicines in different ways, so the initial focus will be on understanding the mechanisms in each country, so “we can identify whether the way that medicines are provided and procured actually creates problems”. Then the group will look at evidence based practice to make recommendations on how to prevent or minimise distribution problems and improve the clinical management of shortages.
The network is chaired by Helena Jenzer from the University of Bern, Switzerland, with Roberto Frontini, president of the European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP), as deputy chair.