Netherlands facing worst medicine shortage yet, warn pharmacists


The Netherlands is struggling to cope with a worsening shortage of medicines, with antibiotics and heart medication the most affected, pharmacists’ organisation KNMP has warned.

Last year pharmacists ran out of 1,514 types of medication, but this year the number of drugs that have not been available for at least two weeks has already reached 1,179.

Production and distribution problems as well as the quality of the products have had a great impact on availability, the KNMP said.

“We were hoping against hope that we had reached rock bottom last year but it’s now much, much worse. We can’t continue like this. Pharmacists are doing all they can for the patients who are affected by this,” KNMP chair Aris Prins said.

The Netherlands is at the back of the queue when it comes to distribution, Prins said, adding: “The list of medicines that are only unavailable in the Netherlands is growing.”

The only remedy for pharmacists is to import medicines on a daily basis, or get creative by making the pills themselves or finding other alternatives, he said.

Allopurinol, a pill for sciatica, for example, is readily available abroad but scarce in the Netherlands. It is one of 37 medicines for which the four big health insurers have selected the same preferential provider.

“If that provider is unable to deliver, pharmacists have a problem, along with 150,000 patients,” Prins said.

Hospitals too are struggling to access enough medicines. “We need to get all the relevant parties around the table and talk about solutions as soon as possible. It’s all taking too long,” he said.

A new rule requiring distributors of medicines to maintain stocks for a period of at least six weeks has not provided the hoped-for effect so far, Prins said.

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation