Information on medicine shortages and alternative products ensures continuity of drug therapy

In recent years, there has been a strong increase in medicine shortages. According to the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea, the number of shortage notifications made by marketing authorisation holders is increasing continuously. In 2020, more than 2,000 supply shortage notifications were made to Fimea, which means that the number of notifications has increased fourfold since 2016. *

Shortages take up both patients’ and healthcare professionals’ time. Most medicinal products can be replaced with a generic alternative by pharmacies. However, if an alternative cannot be found, therapy may need to be reconsidered. At worst, medicine shortages may interrupt a patient’s therapy and risk patient safety.

Shortage problems cause additional work for healthcare professionals, especially when information on shortages is not shared properly. To work efficiently, healthcare professionals need a smooth flow of up-to-date information. When information on supply shortages is received in good time, they can make provision and take appropriate action. According to surveys commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Information Centre, there has been a lot to improve in the flow of information. For example, 72 per cent of pharmacists would like more information on the supply of medicines (survey conducted in September–October 2020, n=229).

Information on supply shortages and available alternatives provided with other pharmaceutical information

Medicine shortages and information on available alternatives can be found in the Pharmaca Fennica® online service and mobile app. The goal is to ensure continuity of patients’ drug therapy and to ease the workload of doctors and pharmacies.

Information on supply shortages can easily be found in conjunction with other pharmaceutical information to ensure that the information will be on the physician’s desk at the right time, i.e. when prescribing medicines.

“We have included the information in our pharmaceutical information services, which means that information on shortage issues and available alternatives is provided with other pharmaceutical information. This way a doctor will already know whether a drug is available or not when prescribing it. The doctor can also see if a patient’s therapy will require a new plan or if there are other alternative products or products that contain the same active ingredient,” says Essi Kariaho, CXO at the Pharmaceutical Information Centre.

Information on supply shortages and available alternatives can be imported into pharmaceutical and healthcare information systems, such as pharmacy and patient databases, making them available to all professionals involved in the treatment of a patient and making information quicker to find.

Shortage information is based on the shortage notifications published by Fimea, and the information is updated daily. If a shortage ends sooner than expected or is prolonged, the relevant information will be updated for those who need it. This ensures that those involved in pharmacotherapy have access to up-to-date information on medicine shortages and available alternatives.


* Sic! Medicine shortages in 2020 – review of underlying causes and ways to reduce shortages (in Finnish)

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