Original Article

Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 184, Issue 2, pp 435-440

First online:

An audit of drug shortages in a community pharmacy practice

  • E. M. CostelloeAffiliated withNewtown PharmacySchool of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast Email author 
  • , M. GuinaneAffiliated withNewtown Pharmacy
  • , F. NugentAffiliated withSam McCauley’s Pharmacy
  • , O. HalleyAffiliated withNewtown Pharmacy
  • , C. ParsonsAffiliated withSchool of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast

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There are no firm data on drug shortages in Irish community pharmacy. This prospective observational study aimed to characterise the drug shortage problem in an Irish community pharmacy.


The primary aim was to determine numbers and durations of drug shortages. Secondary aims included comparing these shortages with Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) drug shortage lists and determining the frequency with which notifications were received prior to shortages. Further secondary aims were to examine relationships between causes of drug shortages and drug costs and between causes of drug shortages and shortage durations.


The study took place in a community pharmacy in a Limerick City suburb between October 2012 and February 2013. Data were collected daily regarding drugs that were dispensed, but unavailable to purchase. Suppliers/manufacturers provided data on the reasons for shortages.


65/1,232 dispensed drugs (5.3 %) were in short supply over the study period. Median shortage duration was 13 days (interquartile range 4–32 days) and median cost was €8.10. Numbers of unavailable drugs by month varied from 13 to 38. Monthly IPU drug shortage lists identified between six and eight of these shortages depending on the month. Two notifications were received from suppliers/manufacturers regarding shortages. Parallel exports had the highest mean costs (mean €38.05) and manufacturing problems were associated with the longest durations (mean 57.44 days).


This study highlights the drug shortage problem in an Irish community pharmacy. We propose that enhanced communication between all stakeholders is the most worthwhile solution. Further studies are needed.


Community pharmacy Drug shortages Medication risk Patient safety Prescribed medicines Dispensing