Drug shortages may compromise patient safety: Results of a survey of the reference pharmacies of the Drug Commission of German Pharmacists

Health Policy. 2018 Dec;122(12):1302-1309. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2018.09.005. Epub 2018 Sep 13.


Drug shortages are a complex problem and of growing concern. To evaluate implications of drug shortages in terms of outpatient and inpatient safety, the Drug Commission of German Pharmacists surveyed its two nationwide reference pharmacy networks: 865 community and 54 hospital pharmacies. Participants were asked to complete a six-question online survey, covering relevance and challenges of drug shortages in everyday practice as well as consequences for patient safety. Answers were given in the context of the last three months prior to the survey. In total, 482 community (55.7%) and 36 hospital pharmacies (66.7%) participated. Occurrence of drug shortages were confirmed by 88.6% of community and 80.6% of hospital pharmacies. Thus, for example, a substitute was dispensed more than 15 times (60.7% of community, 44.8% of hospital pharmacies) during the 3-month-period. Comparing community and hospital pharmacies, differences in the incidence or severity of consequences for patient safety were apparent. Community pharmacies mainly confirmed adverse effects on patients' medication adherence (60.4%) and treatment discontinuation (25.8%). A delay or deny of a life-saving treatment (39.4%) was largely reported by hospital pharmacies. Medication errors were reported by 20.1% of the community and 21.2% of the hospital pharmacies, respectively. Taken together, sustainable solutions are needed to counteract drug shortages and to ensure adequate treatment for patients.

Keywords: Drug Commission of German Pharmacists; Drug shortages; Germany; Patient safety; Pharmacy; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Community Pharmacy Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Medication Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Safety*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / supply & distribution*
  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations