Pharmacies are facing a growing shortage of employees. They also regularly have drug shortages, which not only pose a risk to patients who need the drugs, but also take valuable time from pharmacists who have to solve the shortages. This concludes ABN Amro in a report on this sector published on Wednesday.
About one in six pharmacy employees is older than sixty. ABN Amro therefore expects the existing staff shortages to increase further in the coming years. The bank calls the expected “large outflow in the next ten years” a threat, which puts the “continuity of care under pressure”. That while the demand for care from pharmacists will increase in the coming years. In addition to the aging of the population, this is also due to the relocation of (hospital) care closer to home.
Long supply lines
The shortages of medicines, which have become more frequent in the past ten years, are causing an increasing workload in the pharmacy, the ABN Amro researchers have concluded. Pharmacists spend on average more than 17 hours a week looking for solutions. The shortages of medicines, about 80 percent of which are produced in China and India, are “due to production, distribution and quality problems,” but there are also other important causes. The researchers call the Netherlands “not an attractive market” because of the low prices for medicines without a patent and the relatively low population.
Long supply lines are another cause of the drug shortages. It takes an average of about eight months before an order from Asia reaches the Netherlands. Production problems or a rejected batch also have immediate consequences, because medicines are produced in fewer and fewer factories. Many Asian raw materials producers and drug factories have merged or closed due to global price pressures. European manufacturers depend on an increasingly smaller number of suppliers.
In response to the scarcity, the government recently launched a trial with a so-called ‘iron stock’, whereby all prescription drugs must be in stock several weeks in advance. Pharmacists’ organization KNMP hopes that the shortage will structurally decrease from next year. Then manufacturers and suppliers are jointly responsible for a stock of two and a half months.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of 28 July 2022