Medicine shortages: gaps between countries and global perspectives

Angela Acosta, Egdda Patricia Vanegas, Joan Rovira, Brian Godman, Tomasz Bochenek

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Introduction Over the last decade, global health policies and different research areas have focused on the relevance and impact of medicine shortages. Published studies suggest there have been difficulties with access to medicines since the beginning of the twentieth century. There have though been advances in our understanding and management of the problem. However, in view of global and regional health care concerns with shortages, we believe this phenomenon needs to be characterized and described more fully. This includes the types of medicines affected, possible causes, and potential strategies to address these. The aim of this scoping review was to identify, compare if possible, and characterize the recent literature about the situation of medicines shortages between countries, and provide different perspectives including a global context and national approaches to help address the situation. 
Methodology A scoping study presented as a narrative review of the situation and findings principally based on published papers. 
Results Based on the reported cases in the literature, a typology of medicines shortage and supply interruption episodes and their causes were proposed. National approaches to notify and manage the medicines shortages cases were described and classified by update frequency. In addition, principal differences between market and supply chain management perspectives of the situation were identified and global and countries’ perspectives were described. 
Conclusion Policy makers require solutions that prevent those cases in which the population's health is affected by episodes of medicine shortages and/or interruption in the supply chain. There is also a need to generate a glossary related to logistics management and the availability of medicines. This will be useful to understand and overcome shortages as well as recognize that potential solutions are not only related with actions linked to research, development and innovation but much wider. Overall, this paper can act as a basis for future discussions in this important area.
Original languageEnglish
Article number763
Number of pages21
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2019


  • medicine shortages
  • medicine access
  • pharmaceutical policy
  • medicine supply
  • South America
  • Europe
  • North America
  • Western Asia

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