European Healthcare Distribution Association / Groupement International de la Répartition Pharmaceutique

Minimising the effect of shortages of essential medicines

Minimising the effect of shortages of essential medicines (23 April 2020)

In the event of supply shortages, it is necessary for full-service healthcare distributors to take measures to minimise the impact of shortages on patients.


Full-service healthcare distributors are already experiencing challenges in relation to supply shortages caused by the gap between increased demand at pharmacy-level with unchanged inbound quantities received from manufacturers. 


It is expected that this gap may even widen when supply volumes imposed by manufacturers at Member State-level are exhausted. 


European markets are facing also medium-term supply shortage threat due to interruptions in manufacturing related to shortages of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) from China and India, the increased demand on products used off-label to treat COVID-19 patients, disruptions to transportation and logistics, etc... 

What full-service healthcare distributors can do going forward

GIRP has issued a catalogue of measures proposed by full-service healthcare distributors to optimise the supply of medicines during and after the COVID-19 crisis


GIRP highlights a broad range of capabilities of full-service healthcare distributors to optimise available supplies and ensure a fair and equitable distribution of the available product quantities. 

  • The Marketing Authorisation Holder (MAH) should give an early warning to National Competent Authorities (NCAs), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and full-service healthcare distributors as soon as it is foreseeable that stock levels of medicines are insufficient to cover demand. The MAHs should provide information on the extent to which they can meet orders of full-service healthcare distributors.
  • Full-service healthcare distributors’ competence could be further utilised to support and ensure the supply of medicines to hospitals, in addition to nursing and special care homes (under pharmacy supervision).
  • Full-service healthcare distributors should be granted the right to be supplied with all approved and available medicines in the countries from the Marketing Authorisation Holder (MAH).
  • Full-service healthcare distributors’ distribution centres and warehouses can be used for storing centrally procured products, especially COVID-19 therapies, PPE equipment, medical products and for safety stocks of supply-critical/essential medicines. 
  • Essential information sharing, serving for the exclusive purposes of supplying medicines in times of crisis and limited to what is strictly necessary, should be temporarily exempted from certain regulatory prohibitions and data protection laws.  


Find the full catalogue of measures here:

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