Addressing drug shortages with advanced analytics
AI & MI Data Analysis Data Analytics Digital Healthcare

Addressing drug shortages with advanced analytics

By Rajarshi April 03, 2023 - 105 views

Drug shortages have become a part and parcel of modern healthcare systems due to several reasons. While there is a sizeable economic impact of drug shortages for manufacturers and pharmacies alike, there are widespread community and social disadvantages as well.

Pharmacies or clinics running out of medicine stocks are representatives of a scenario that is often witnessed worldwide and with frightening consequences. 

For example, Europe is already seeing shortages of commonly-used medicines. A survey by the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (EU) had 100% of 29 member nations reporting shortages of medicines amongst community pharmacists.

76% also stated how shortages had worsened than the earlier year (the survey was implemented between 14th November and 31st December 2022). The UK is also witnessing HRT shortages according to reports, while hospitals in the U.S. are also reporting issues with procurement for liquid ibuprofen, while ADHD diagnoses have gone up in the U.S. as well, leading to shortages of vital drugs for the same.

Mexico is witnessing chronic shortages and unfulfilled prescriptions and supply fluctuations and disruptions have been seen widely throughout Asia too. 

What are the reasons for medicine shortages? 

Wondering about the reason for drug shortages? There are quite a few that can be noted in this context: 

  • Higher seasonal illness outbreaks in the aftermath of COVID-19, leading to skyrocketing average annual demand for medicines that is higher than normal in several categories. 
  • The inability of pharmaceutical companies to meet such unprecedented demand, with excess capacity restricted for cost control. 
  • Global supply chain impact along with higher energy costs and inflation have impacted global drug manufacturers who have to contend with pricing measures. 
  • Stockpiling by customers due to sudden drug shortages. 
  • Over-prescribing by the system.  Reports estimate that the National Health Service in the UK loses a whopping 300 million pounds annually owing to partially-used or unused medication which cannot be reused or recycled. 
  • Lack of systems for forecasting and identifying supply shortages, while ensuring proper inventory management. 

Drug Shortage Solutions That May Work 

There are a few drug shortage solutions that may be effective for combating and reducing shortages. 

  • Data and analytics are enabling better access towards medicines worldwide while enabling superior supply and demand management for individual patients and pharmacies alike. 
  • Real-time pharmacy, hospital, and clinical data will enable a proper understanding of the demand for specific drugs/medical products. 
  • Leveraging electronic and public health records for enabling healthcare stakeholders to report demand figures for drugs, without revealing confidential patient data. 
  • Opportunities for better inventory and supply chain management with AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning (ML). 
  • Generic entities may leverage smarter technologies for lowering manufacturing costs by up to 20% while enhancing production. Smarter and connected factories with proper insights and data analysis can enable higher savings and reliable deliveries. 
  • Companies may look at higher procurement of local active ingredients while depending on go-to nations for the same. Boosting supply and production levels, along with harnessing real-time data analytics will enable tackling this scenario. 
  • Supervised machine learning and analytics models can help in forecasting/predicting shortages for most drugs used throughout various categories, price points, and age groups. 
  • Modelling can enable healthcare stakeholders to understand more about the issues behind drug shortages while analytics can also help predict demand for specific drugs based on historical data and current trends. 
  • Pharmacies and other players may not have access to data on the supply side, although they have demand-side information. They will be able to gain more visibility into the supply chains of manufacturers with an integrated information-sharing system. 
  • Data analytics-driven insights for optimizing orders and eventually lowering the effect of drug shortages on pharmaceutical and healthcare operations. 
  • Systems for tracking and reporting drug shortages, including aspects like the frequency, drugs involved, period, causes, duration, managing strategies, impacts, and future shortages too. 
  • Real-time identification and tracking of patients receiving shorter supplies of drugs by hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. Immediate patient identification regulations for capturing present drug utilization across multiple categories. 
  • Real-time identification and addressing situations along with finding out drugs in shorter supply. Predictive abilities enable higher time for researching material for alternative agents or making suitable arrangements for drug acquisition from other sites or facilities. 
  • Once supply levels normalize for a drug, pharmacists and healthcare stakeholders may discontinue their surveillance regulations without waiting for technical assistance. Real-time data-filtering and reporting abilities are leveraged for viewing drug usage trends and prescription patterns throughout healthcare systems. These insights may enable higher standardization of drug management across institutions, while also facilitating better training of clinicians for lowering care variations. 

Advanced data analytics will help address drug shortages and enable better inventory management simultaneously. However, suitable implementation, technological integration, and awareness are necessary for the same. 


How can advanced analytics be used to address drug shortages?

Advanced analytics can be deployed for tackling drug shortages through real-time tracking and surveillance of prescription trends and drug demand, forecasting shortages, and enabling better drug supply management. 

What are the benefits of using advanced analytics to address drug shortages?

Advanced analytics goes a long way towards helping tackle drug shortages, enabling forecasting future demand and shortages, identifying patterns for better management, and also enabling better global medicine access. 

What are the challenges of using advanced analytics to address drug shortages?

Challenges include technological integration, legacy systems integration, awareness regarding best practices, quality data generation, and more. 

What are the best practices for implementing advanced analytics for drug shortage management?

Best practices include unified and integrated public databases, suitable data modelling systems, suitable protocols for data security and privacy, and swift reporting mechanisms for demand and shortages.

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