Drug shortage management: A qualitative assessment of a collaborative approach

PLoS One. 2021 Apr 23;16(4):e0243870. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0243870. eCollection 2021.


Drug shortages frequently and persistently affect healthcare institutions, posing formidable financial, logistical, and ethical challenges. Despite plentiful evidence characterizing the impact of drug shortages, there is a remarkable dearth of data describing current shortage management practices. Hospitals within the same state or region may not only take different approaches to shortages but may be unaware of shortages proximate facilities are facing. Our goal is to explore how hospitals in Michigan handle drug shortages to assess potential need for comprehensive drug shortage management resources. We conducted semi-structured interviews with diverse stakeholders throughout the state to describe experiences managing drug shortages, approaches to recent shortages, openness to inter-institutional engagement, ideas for a shared resource, and potential obstacles to implementation. To solicit additional feedback on ideas for a shared resource gathered from the interviews, we held focus groups with pharmacists, physicians, ethicists, and community representatives. Among participants representing a heterogeneous sample of institutions, three themes were consistent: (1) numerous drug shortage strategies occurring simultaneously; (2) inadequate resources and lead time to proactively manage shortages; and (3) interest in, but varied attitudes toward, a collaborative approach. These data provide insight to help develop and test a shared drug shortage management resource for enhancing fair allocation of scarce drugs. A shared resource may help institutions adopt accepted best practices and more efficiently access or share finite resources in times of shortage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intersectoral Collaboration
  • Michigan
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / supply & distribution*
  • Pharmacists / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations

Grant support

This research was funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation (grant number: 002652.II): https://www.bcbsm.com/foundation/index.html. The sponsor had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.