Notification Systems for Shortages and Stockouts of Medicines and Vaccines. Technical Consultation. Geneva, Switzerland, 26-27 July 2017
(2017; 25 pages)


In May 2016, WHO Member States adopted Resolution WHA69.25 Addressing global shortages of medicines and vaccines. The resolution highlights the problems that occur when essential medicines and vaccines are not sufficiently available in national health systems. Shortages and stockouts affect public health systems of countries of all income levels. Shortages are reported on the supply side as well as the demand side of medicines markets. Supply shortages, or insufficient supply at manufacturing levels, have been increasing in recent years. Demand side shortages remain a persistent problem and disproportionately affect countries with limited capacity in their procurement and supply chain management systems. The impact is increasingly serious, including higher medicine costs and poorer patient outcomes. Shortages and stockouts can also put patients in danger from inappropriate medication substitution as well as heighten risks for the infiltration of substandard and falsified products into the supply chain.

Resolution WHA69.25 calls for specific actions by stakeholders, including WHO to develop a “global medicine shortage notification system that would include information to better detect and understand the causes of medicines shortages.” National level reporting systems exist for shortages and stockouts, but only in a limited number of countries. A shortage in one country or region may predict or have a connection to problems elsewhere, highlighting the need for a global approach to manage this multi-faceted problem.

A technical consultation was hosted by WHO in July of 2017 at its Geneva headquarters offices to gather expert information on key components that should be included in a global notification system for shortages and stockouts of medicines and vaccines. The meeting was preceded by consultations in October of 2016 and December of 2015 to harmonize definitions of shortages and review the details of existing approaches.

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