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Pharmacists should be given greater authority to solve medicine shortages when they occur and governments should, as soon as possible, instruct medicines regulatory authorities to investigate and develop proposals giving such extended powers to pharmacists. This is one of a number of recommendations in a new Statement of Policy on Medicines Shortages published recently by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). 

“The causes of shortages are several, multidimensional and sometimes unpredictable. In the context of a complex global supply chain and a globalised market, there is a growing concern among all stakeholders — including patients, healthcare professionals, governmental organisations, pharmaceutical wholesalers and the pharmaceutical industry — about the future of medicines supplies worldwide,” said Mr Lars-Åke Söderlund, Chair of the FIP’s Medicines Shortages Policy Committee and President of the FIP’s Community Pharmacy Section.

He added: “There is evidence that shortages are worsening with time, creating ever more difficulties for healthcare professionals, and compromising patient safety. Shortages have been reported in countries of all income levels, occurring across all healthcare settings and involving essential life-saving medicines, very commonly used medicines and both high- and low-price medicines. In this policy statement, FIP and its member organisations make four commitments, including to develop evidence-based guidelines and competency development programmes targeting pharmacists’ roles in mitigating the impact of medicines shortages.” 

Other recommendations in the policy statement include:

• The global use of a single definition of medicines shortages and a set of harmonised criteria to identify and monitor shortages at national, regional and international level to enhance understanding of the problem globally through more accurate, reliable and comparable data.
• Development of a global process to determine the list of critical or vulnerable products.
• That each country establish a publicly-accessible means of
providing information on medicine shortages.  
• That all procurers of medicines move towards active procurement processes that assure the continuity of supply of quality medicines.