The French reporting system for drug shortages: description and trends from 2012 to 2018: an observational retrospective study

BMJ Open. 2020 Mar 4;10(3):e034033. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-034033.


Objectives: The aim was to provide figures for drug shortages in France and describe their characteristics, causes and trends between 2012 and 2018.

Methods: Data from the national reporting system from the Agency of Medicine and Health Product Safety (ANSM) was analysed. This database contains information regarding effective and predicted shortages of major therapeutic of interest drugs (ie, drugs whose shortage would be life-threatening or representing a loss of treatment opportunity for patients with a severe disease) which are mandatory reported by marketing authorisation holders to the ANSM. Data are presented as numbers or percentages of pharmaceutical products (ie, the product name and its formulation) reported on shortage between 2012 and 2018.

Results: There were 3530 pharmaceutical products reported on shortage during the period, including 1833 different active substances. Drugs on shortage were mostly old products (63.4%) with national marketing authorisation procedures (62.8%), as well as injectable and oral forms (47.5% and 43.3%, respectively). Anti-infectives for systemic use ranked first (18%), followed by nervous and cardiovascular system drugs and by antineoplastic and immunomodulating agents (17.4%, 12.5% and 10.4%, respectively). The number of reported shortages presented a fourfold increase between 2012 and 2018 and a sharp rise in 2017 and 2018, along with a rise in the number of active substances on shortage. The therapeutic classes concerned remained similar over time. Manufacturing and material supply issues were the main reported reasons for the shortage each year (30%) and there was an overall rise of pharmaceutical market reasons.

Conclusion: Drug shortages were increasingly reported in France. Preventive measures should specifically target the products most on shortage, in particular old drugs, injectable, anti-infective, nervous system and cardiovascular system drugs as well as antineoplastic and immunomodulating agents.

Keywords: France; drug shortages; major therapeutic interest; national reporting system; pharmacosurveillance; short supply; supply of medicines.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Drugs, Generic / supply & distribution
  • France
  • Humans
  • Prescription Drugs / classification
  • Prescription Drugs / supply & distribution*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Drugs, Generic
  • Prescription Drugs