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Drug shortages in large hospitals in Riyadh: a cross-sectional study

Yazed Sulaiman AlRuthia, Hadeel AlKofide, Refaa’h AlAjmi, Bander Balkhi, Ahmed Alghamdi, Albandari AlNasser, Areej Alayed, Maali Alshammari, Danah Alsuhaibani, Asma Alathbah 

From the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 

How to cite this article:

AlRuthia YS, AlKofide H, AlAjmi R, Balkhi B, Alghamdi A, AlNasser A, Alayed A, Alshammari M, Alsuhaibani D, Alathbah A. Drug shortages in large hospitals in Riyadh: a cross-sectional study. Ann Saudi Med 2017; 37(5): 375-385.

DOI: 10.5144/0256-4947.2017.375


BACKGROUND: Drug shortages are a serious and complex issue in any healthcare system. We conducted this study because the prevalence of drug shortages in Saudi Arabia is largely unknown, while there have been reports of shortages. 


OBJECTIVE: To explore the prevalence and characteristics of drug shortages as well as identify strategies to minimize their impact on patient care and safety in large hospitals. 


DESIGN: Questionnaire-based cross-sectional study. 


SETTING: Pharmacy departments in secondary and tertiary care hospitals in the city of Riyadh. 


SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Pharmacists in ten hospitals, categorized as Ministry of Health [MOH], MOH-affiliated medical cities, and non-MOH, were recruited using convenience sampling. The European Association of Hospital Pharmacists drug shortage questionnaire was administered to survey pharmacists about drug shortages in their hospitals. 


MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Percentages of drug class shortages, characteristics, and strategies to minimize impact on patient care and safety across each hospital sector. 


RESULTS: Of 200 pharmacists invited to participate, 120 pharmacists completed the questionnaire (60% response rate). Twenty-four percent were from MOH hospitals, 32% from MOH-affiliated medical cities, and 44% from non-MOH hospitals. A significantly higher percentage of pharmacists from MOH-affiliated medical cities (42.11%) reported encountering drug shortages on a daily basis compared to 13.79% and 15.09% of participants from MOH-hospitals and non-MOH hospitals, respectively (P=.001). The top three drug classes that ≥ 25% of participants reported having shortages of were cardiovascular, antineoplastic, and endocrine drugs. The two most common strategies that were reported to minimize the impact of drug shortages on patient care by more than 70% of participants were informing prescribers and recommending alternative drugs, and alerting hospital staff about the presence of drug shortages using new communication tools. 


CONCLUSIONS: The relatively high reported rates of drug shortages in some hospitals should encourage health policymakers to address this serious public health problem. 


LIMITATIONS: The generazibility of the study’s findings were limited by the small sample size, convenience sampling technique, self-reported data, and the fact that only pharmacists were invited to participate. 

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