Dealing with medicine shortages in community pharmacy

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You have a prescription, but no stock in the pharmacy. You try to order and the ordering system says 'Out of stock' or 'Manufacturer cannot supply'.

Sounds familiar?

We understand that dealing with medicine shortages can be difficult, time-consuming and frustrating for everyone involved. So, here’s a guide to help you and your team deal with medicine shortages.

Want to know about dealing with shortages in secondary care? see our best practice standards for managing medicines shortages in secondary care in England and Scotland.

First Published: 10 March 2020
Updated: 10 January 2023

Sections on this page

  • Principles
  • Assessing the situation
  • Flowchart
  • Top tips on assessing the situation
  • Suggesting suitable alternatives to the prescriber
  • Top tips for suggesting suitable alternatives to the prescriber
  • Contacting the prescriber and practice
  • Top tips for contacting the prescriber and practice
  • Further information

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We think the way pharmacy teams help to manage medicines shortages should meet these principles:

  1. Everyone who needs medicines during shortages to be supported by the pharmacy team to find the best solution for them, whether this means sourcing the medicines from other places or agreeing alternatives with the person and prescriber
  2. Good communication between the pharmacy team and the person needing medicines, which is compassionate, empathetic and respectful of confidentiality
  3. Good communication between the pharmacy team and other healthcare professionals, which is collaborative and professional.

These principles and this guide can be used together. Alongside existing national guidelines and local standard operating procedures (SOPs).