Time spent by Belgian hospital pharmacists on supply disruptions and drug shortages: An exploratory study

PLoS One. 2017 Mar 28;12(3):e0174556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174556. eCollection 2017.


Introduction: Supply problems of drugs are an increasing and worldwide problem, also in Belgium. Hospital pharmacists try to manage drug supply problems to minimize the impact on patient care. This study aims to quantify in a detailed manner how much time employees of 17 Belgian hospital pharmacies spend on drug supply problems.

Methods: During six months, employees of Belgian hospital pharmacies filled in the daily time spent on drug supply problems using a template containing all steps which can be executed to manage drug supply problems. Additionally, Belgian hospital pharmacists were asked to report the drugs which experienced drug supply problems together with the solution for this problem.

Results: Hospital pharmacists spent a median of 109 minutes a week on drug supply problems, with a minimum of 40 minutes per week and a maximum of 216 minutes per week. Fifty-nine percent of the total time spent on drug supply problems was executed by hospital pharmacists, 27% by pharmacy technicians; the rest was performed by logistic or administrative personnel. About one third of the total time spent was invested in gathering information on the supply problem. About two third of the supply disruptions caused drug shortages, meaning there was a need to switch to another (generic) therapeutic alternative. For most drug shortages, a Belgian generic medicine could be found. However in some cases, the alternative had to be ordered abroad or for some drug shortages, no alternative was available.

Conclusion: These exploratory results on time spent by hospital pharmacists on drug supply problems in Belgium highlight the economic impact of drug supply problems for hospital pharmacies. A fully reliable, daily updated list on the federal agencies websites would be a major help to hospital pharmacists.

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Industry / statistics & numerical data
  • Drugs, Generic / supply & distribution
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / supply & distribution*
  • Pharmacists*
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pharmacy Technicians
  • Time Factors


  • Drugs, Generic
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations

Grant support

EDW is funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). The study is included in a project supported by Research Foundation Flanders (http://www.fwo.be/en/). The study is included in a project supported by TEVA. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.