Pharmacists sound alarm after 50% rise in out-of-stock medicines


Pharmacists have called for the production of prescription drugs to be stepped up after the number of medicines in short supply increased by 50% last year.

The trade association KNMP said 2,292 medicines had been unavailable for at least two weeks in 2023, representing around 15% of all types. They included drugs to treat cancer, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

The organisation said problems with the international supply chain and the low price of generic non-patented medicines had contributed to the shortfall.

Dutch health insurers’ policy of insisting on the cheapest available medicine had driven down prices, but also prompted suppliers to prioritise other countries when stocks fell low, the KNMP added.

The problem has also become more acute, with the affected medicines being out of stock for 107 days on average in 2023, compared to 91 days the previous year.

Chairman Aris Prins described the situation as “dramatic” and said efforts to ensure manufacturers and wholesalers had at least eight weeks’ stock in reserve had come to nothing.

“Pharmacists are working every day to find alternatives for medicines that are not there,” he said. “It’s a sticking plaster solution.”

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