Falling Short

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, December 2023, Volume 47, Issue 12

Drug shortages across Europe are being exacerbated by increased demand, struggling supply chains, and manufacturer suspensions.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year … unless you are struggling to get a hold of prescription or even some day-to-day medicines as a result of drug shortages! Throughout Europe, there has been a rising shortage of a variety of medicines, including common antibiotics and painkillers, causing, and pardon the pun, headaches to not only patients, but also pharma companies, regulatory bodies, and governments.

From late 2022, numerous countries across Europe started reporting serious issues sourcing important drugs, leading to shortages in supplies. Most notably, supplies of the antibiotic amoxicillin were low along with children’s paracetamol and blood pressure medicine (1).

A survey of 29 European countries, conducted by the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU), revealed that, for most, medicines shortages had been worse in 2022 when compared with the prior year. The three most common causes of shortages were highlighted in the survey as “disruption or suspension of the manufacturing process”; “quota imposed by the manufacturer”; and “unexpected or high increase in demand” (2).

To try and prevent further shortages, the European Commission has adopted a new approach comprising a mechanism to share medicines across the bloc and emergency measures (3). In the United Kingdom, mandatory requirements for companies to monitor and report any potential discontinuations or supply issues with medicines were implemented in 2019 (4).


However, potential supply chain issues can only be mitigated to a certain degree as other, sometimes surprising, global disruptions occur. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine both took supply chains by surprise; however, Brexit has and is continuing to cause difficulties in medicines supply, particularly for the UK.

As shortages of medicines have grown year-on-year since 2000 in Europe (5), it seems as though greater efforts to solve the problem are required.


1. Martuscelli, C. Europe is Running Out of Medicines. Politico, 29 Jan. 2023.
2. PGEU. Medicine Shortages: PGEU Survey 2022 Results. Survey Report, January 2023.
3. European Commission. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions Addressing Medicine Shortage in the EU. Communication, 24 Oct. 2023.
4. Department of Health and Social Care. DHSC Reporting Requirements for Medicines Shortages and Discontinuations. Guidance Document, 21 April 2021.
5. Louloudi, J.; Morfonios, N.; Zafeiropoulos, K. Why Europe is Chronically Running out of Meds. VOX Europ, 19 April 2023. PTE

About the author

Felicity Thomas is the European/senior editor for Pharmaceutical Technology Group.

Article details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 35, No. 12
December 2023
Page: 6


When referring to this article, please cite it as Thomas, F. Falling Short. Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 2023 35 (12) 6.