Medicine outages can wreak havoc on pharmacy operations and patient care. When a needed medication is not in stock, it can lead to treatment delays, patient dissatisfaction, and revenue losses.

For pharmacy inventory managers, preventing medicine shortages is a top priority. This article outlines critical strategies and best practices for minimizing medicine outages through improved pharmacy inventory control.

With proactive planning, data-driven reordering, and careful supplier management, pharmacies can keep their shelves stocked and avoid the headaches of backorders and shortages.

Read on to learn key tips for ensuring your pharmacy has the medications patients need when they need them.

1. Set Par Levels For Each Medication

Determining ideal par levels for every medication you stock is foundational for avoiding outages.

Set Par Levels For Each Medication

Par levels refer to the minimum quantities you aim to have on hand for each product at all times.

Setting par levels allows you to track inventory, spot shortages before they occur, and reorder properly.

To determine par levels, consider factors like average monthly/weekly usage rates, lead times for deliveries, and seasonal demand fluctuations.

For fast-moving medications, keep higher par levels. For slower movers, lower par levels minimize tying up cash in excess inventory.

Update par levels regularly as demand changes over time. Referencing accurate par levels when reordering keeps your pharmacy’s shelves well-stocked.

Additionally, factor in how medications are packaged when calculating par levels.This is one of pharmaceutical packaging solutions that you can try out.

For example, a medication packed in boxes of 10 bottles with 100 pills per bottle would have a different par level calculation than blister packs of 30 pills each. Consider the units and packaging to determine adequate quantities to stock.

With established par levels, you can instantly spot when a medication level falls below target and risks stock-outs.

This gives you lead time to place replenishment orders before you run out completely. Monitoring current inventory against par levels enables proactive shortage prevention.

2. Track Usage Data and Trends

Accurately tracking medication usage and analyzing ongoing demand trends is equally important for avoiding shortages.

Maintain detailed records of how quickly each medication sells over weeks and months. Watch for patterns and seasonal spikes that impact use. For example, allergy medications see higher demand in springtime.

Tracking usage over time enables you to make data-driven decisions when reordering. You can base par levels and order quantities on real demand, not guesswork.

Usage tracking and trend analysis also allows you to anticipate fluctuations in volume so you can adjust inventory levels accordingly. With tight control of in-demand products, you can ensure adequate supply.

Leverage pharmacy management software to simplify usage data collection and analysis.

Automated tracking through perpetual or cycle inventory features makes it easy to monitor demand trends across your medication catalog. Use this data to fine-tune your ordering and par levels.

3. Streamline and Organize Reordering

Disorganized, sporadic reordering often leads to inventory gaps and shortages. Implement structured processes for when and how you replenish stock.

Streamline and Organize Reordering

Streamlining your purchasing routines promotes consistency and minimizes the chances of products being overlooked.

Set fixed days for placing routine reorders, such as every Monday and Thursday. Refer to par levels and usage data to inform order quantities.

Develop systems for submitting replenishment requests, like assign purchasing responsibility to one designated staff member. Implement technology like e-ordering to simplify and track orders.

Organize medications into categories, like fast-movers, slow-movers, and seasonals, with tailored ordering protocols.

Fast-moving products may need twice-weekly ordering, while slow-movers can be biweekly or monthly. Standardizing and systemizing your reordering enables proactive replenishment in sync with demand.

4. Build In Delivery Buffers

Even the most organized reordering can run into trouble if a delivery arrives late. Medication shortages often stem from delays or hiccups with suppliers. To protect against this, build in delivery time buffers when managing inventory.

For each medication, factor its typical delivery lead time into your par levels and reorder points.

For example, if a product usually takes 4 days to deliver, reorder when you have 5 days’ supply left.

This cushions your inventory if the delivery is held up. It’s wise to add extra lead time padding for essential medications that cannot run out.

Communicating expected delivery times with suppliers is important for managing buffers. Confirm typical transit times and factor extra time for potential delays.

Track inbound orders and follow up immediately if a delivery is late. The delivery buffers you build into par levels and order timing are your safety net when suppliers miss expected timeframes.

5. Diversify Your Supplier Base

Relying on just one supplier per medication increases your shortage risk if that supplier experiences disruptions. Diversifying your vendor base provides backup options that promote continuity of supply.

Aim to establish at least 2 (ideally 3) approved suppliers for vital medications that cannot go out of stock.

Qualify alternate sources upfront by verifying licensing, facilities, business practices, and quality controls. Confirm new suppliers’ inventory breadth and availability to meet your ordering needs.

When bringing on a new vendor, initially order small trial quantities to test reliability and delivery times.

If satisfied with performance, progressively shift share of supply to dual or triple sourcing across your suppliers. Avoid overreliance on any one vendor.

With multiple suppliers in place, if your primary vendor faces an outage, you have secondary options to turn to.

Having redundancy within your supplier network is smart insurance against shortages when disruptions occur.

Monitor On Hand Inventory Daily

6. Monitor On-Hand Inventory Daily

The best practice for avoiding stock-outs is monitoring your on-hand inventory every single day. Make it part of opening procedures and end-of-day closing routines.

Physically walking shelves to count products enables you to catch low levels or outages before they turn into problems.

Pair physical inventory checks with running reports from your pharmacy management system.

Use perpetual inventory reports to cross-check system counts versus actual shelves. Investigate and resolve any discrepancies immediately to maintain data accuracy.

Designate certain staff as responsible for the daily inventory review. Empower them to directly trigger reorders for medications trending low.

With eyes on actual inventory every day, you can quickly respond to dips and potential stock-outs before they escalate.


Keeping pharmacy shelves adequately stocked requires diligent oversight of inventory levels and smart replenishment practices.

By setting par levels, monitoring usage data, systemizing ordering, buffering deliveries, diversifying suppliers, and checking on-hand inventory daily, pharmacies can minimize disruptive medicine shortages.

Proper inventory control takes continuous effort, but pays off through better continuity of care for patients.

Reliable access to medications relies first on effective management of medication supplies. Put these tips into action to help ensure your pharmacy always has the medicines people need.