TORONTO — An official with the Canadian Pharmacists Association says the group is hearing anecdotal evidence of drug shortages for cancer patients.
The association’s director of government relations and public affairs, Jeff Morrison, says it’s just the latest round of drug shortages that tend to come in waves.
He says there is no national or centralized system that tracks drug supply in Canada, so it’s difficult to say when there’s a system-wide shortage of a specific drug.
Morrison says it’s tough to pinpoint reasons for shortages because the drug supply system is a function of the private market and there’s no monitoring system.
He says reasons might include shortages of the active pharmaceutical ingredient and operational issues in some plants, and adds there’s speculation that changes in generic pricing in some provinces have led drugmakers to cut back on or discontinue certain makes of drugs that aren’t as lucrative.
The association has been calling for the creation of a drug shortages monitoring system, similar to one in the United States that has a website enabling anyone to find out if drugs are in short supply and when supply is expected to resume.
“We don’t have that in Canada,” Morrison said in an interview Friday. “We’re actually trying now to work with manufacturers to create that.”
Last October the association did a survey of members and found that a range of drugs were in short supply, one as common as penicillin.
“Is there one particular type of drug or class of drug that’s in short supply? No, it tends to go in waves. But it’s really one of the problems we’re seeing, as I say over about the past year, has been that there’s just so many different types of classes of drugs in short supply that clearly there’s an issue and there’s some alarm bells going off.”
He acknowledged that a cancer drug shortage is a serious concern, given the need for timely access to oncology drugs.
“In some cases, like in the case of other shortages, there are alternatives that could be prescribed,” he noted.
“The problem is when a doctor or when a pharmacist doesn’t know whether a particular oncology drug will be in short supply and doesn’t know when ... supply may be resumed of that drug. It’s really difficult to be able to plan alternatives.”