What impact does medicines shortages have on patients? A qualitative study exploring patients’ experience and views of healthcare professionals

Muhammad Atif, Azka Sehar, Iram Malik, Irem Mushtaq, Nafees Ahmad, Zaheer-Ud-Din Babar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The shortage of medicines represents a complex global phenomenon that triggers patient care and safety issues. The study was undertaken to explore the impact of medicines shortages on patients in Pakistan. The study also identified barriers which hinder the solutions of medicines shortages issue.

A qualitative study design was adopted and the data was collected in stages between July and September 2019using an in-depth interview approach. The purposive and convenient sampling strategy was used to recruit the study participants. Sample size was limited by using the saturation point criteria. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using thematic analysis.

A total of 35 stakeholders including 13 physicians, 12 pharmacists and 10 patients participated in the study. The findings of the study were classified into five key themes and seven subthemes. The five themes included, ‘impact of medicine shortages on patients’, ‘patients’ practices in response to medicine shortages’, ‘influence of medicines shortages on medical practice or pharmaceutical business’, ‘barriers to solutions for medicines shortages’, and ‘suggestions to assuage the impact of medicine shortages.’This study showed that the medicine shortages had significant clinical and financial impact on patients. Patients’ opted for a number of risk-prone practices to avoid treatment disruption during shortages. An array of pharmaceutical market, medicines quality and patient related factors refrain physicians to switch from brand name medicine to generics and lead to ineffective management of medicines shortages. Promotion of generic prescription, implementation of punitive policies and proper patient consultation was advised to assuage the impact of medicine shortages on patients.

The adverse clinical, economic and humanistic impact affirmed in this study demand the introduction of risk-management strategies for medicines shortages in hospital and community settings in accordance with the international standards. Promotion of effective patient counselling by the healthcare professionals to deter risk-prone practices associated with medicines shortages is mandatory.
Original languageEnglish
Article number827
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Early online date17 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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