Drug Shortages – What Does 2019 Look Like and How Can Your Pharmacy Manage It?

Jan 17, 2019 | Independent Pharmacy Insights, Pharmacy Growth

Drug shortages have skyrocketed since 2010, growing to become one of the biggest supply chain issues facing healthcare professionals and the patients they serve. These shortages affect the quality of patient care, increase costs for hospitals and healthcare systems, and pose an overall threat to public health.

For example, a one-year shortage of norepinephrine resulted in a 3.7% increase in associated deaths and $13.7 billion in nationally projected losses. As of fall 2018, the top five drug classes facing shortages were antimicrobials, chemotherapy, central nervous system medications, cardiovascular medications, and the nutrition, E-lytes, and fluids class.

While there are several drugs that have been in shortage for as many as eight years, the devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Maria also played a role in the current state of shortages. One example is how this devastating hurricane affected multiple manufacturers in Puerto Rico, which continues to affect pharmacies all over the world today.

Pharmacy leaders are asking: what’s in store for us, and what can we do to reduce the impact for our patients and companies? Let’s discuss the issue and some steps pharmacies can take.

The Outlook for 2019

In November 2018, the FDA hosted a public meeting with Duke University’s Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. The meeting, titled Identifying the Root Causes of Drug Shortages and Finding Enduring Solutions, gathered feedback from various stakeholder groups including healthcare professionals, manufacturers and wholesalers, pharmacists, academic researchers, public and private insurers, patients, and the general public.

Presentations during the meeting projected that drug shortages aren’t going anywhere anytime soon: they’re increasing in occurrence and duration, with higher intensity and an overall higher impact on public health.

Unfortunately, pharmacies don’t have any direct control over the issue. They can only try to reduce the blow of drug shortages on the bottom line of their patient and business health.

So how can you work to shortage-proof your pharmacy? Let’s review a few strategies.

Have an Organization-Wide Plan


According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), your pharmacy’s director should consider developing a plan that includes an assessment, preparation, and contingency phase. Each of these three phases should be comprehensively outlined, including how the pharmacy will go about responsibilities, decision-making, and communication.

Ideally, your pharmacy should identify one team member to take the lead for implementing, coordinating, and monitoring any potential or ongoing shortages.

Increase Communication with Manufacturers, Distributors, and Partners

Major distributors recommend that pharmacies focus on their supply chains by building proactive communication strategies with manufacturers and distributors.

This includes openly discussing your drug needs, buying patterns, and other issues affecting demand. In turn, these partners should be transparent in discussing any potential or current shortages, as well as projections for how long it may be an issue. (As an AlliantRx member, you can turn to us for assistance with these discussions).

This proactive communication strategy should also span into network partners, who can help move inventory among each other to compensate for shortages.

Ramp Up Your Data Capabilities

To put such an extensive communication plan into practice, it’s important to track and report comprehensive data and analytics. This data allows pharmacies like yours to glean insights into how shortage issues are impacting performance, as well as help with tracking and managing inventory and drug spending.

The combination of these and more various data points can, in turn, help to guide the decision-making process toward better managing and dealing with shortages.

Closing Thoughts: Have Trustworthy Purchasing Partners

When it comes to managing drug shortages, having a strong network is a critical component of sound communication and management.

That’s why pharmacies can benefit from working with a leading independent retail buying group like AlliantRx, who, each day, works closely with manufacturers, distributors, and other network partners to bridge product gaps due to shortages. Learn more about how AlliantRx can help your independent pharmacy avoid the pitfalls of drug shortages in 2019 and beyond.

Has your pharmacy found a way to manage drug shortage challenges? Do you have a strategy or tip you want to share? How has your pharmacy’s outcomes and bottom line persevered?

We’d love to know and may even share those experiences in future blog posts, white papers, and e-books. If you’d like to add your experience, please contact Jessica Gardner.

And, of course, be sure to subscribe to our blog for more tips, insights and bulletins that can help grow your pharmacy and save you money – all from your partners at AlliantRx.