Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Drug Shortages

Drug shortages continue to be a serious and growing concern within the Canadian health care system. Managing drug supply issues has become an unfortunate part of pharmacists’ daily practice, which takes time and resources away from direct patient care. Pharmacists track down supply and work with physicians to identify and provide appropriate drug therapy alternatives so that patients can continue to receive the best care possible. Despite these efforts, drug shortages increase the risk of medication errors, adverse events and patient non-adherence and they cause considerable stress and anxiety for patients and pharmacists alike.  

Impact at a glance:

  • One in four Canadians have either personally experienced or know someone who has experienced a drug shortage in the last 3 years (Survey of Canadians - 2018).  
  • Most pharmacists are reporting that drug shortages have increased in the last 3-5 years, with the vast majority (79%) indicating that shortages have ‘greatly increased (Survey of Pharmacists - 2018). 

What CPhA is doing

CPhA has taken a leadership role to help address drug shortages in Canada. We were strong proponents of mandatory drug shortage reporting, which Health Canada enacted in March 2017, and we continue to advocate for research into the causes of drug shortages as well as international cooperation to address and resolve drug supply issues.

Our organization sits on Health Canada’s Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee, made up of industry and health care representatives, to improve drug shortage response and communication strategies, and identify opportunities to help mitigate and prevent disruptions to the Canadian drug supply. CPhA has also actively participated in ad hoc working groups created to help address specific shortages when they occur (e.g., the EpiPen shortage in 2018).

Our advocacy activities related to drug shortages include the following:

Recent Statements:

Pharmacists continue to have difficulty sourcing certain medications amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
May 27, 2020 – Community pharmacists across Canada continue to be faced with drug supply challenges two months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, and they remain very concerned about their ability to access the medications their patients need.

Pharmacists see spikes in drug shortages during pandemic
April 17, 2020 – COVID-19 is and continues to be a threat to Canada’s drug supply say Canada’s pharmacists, and they are concerned about dramatic increases and volatility in the number of reported drug shortages.

COVID-19 and the responsible allocation of medications to patients
March 17, 2020 – To ensure that Canada’s medication supply is managed responsibly, we are recommending a 30-day supply of medications for patients, unless clinically justified.

Canadian Pharmacists Association warns against stockpiling medication in response to COVID-19
March 4, 2020 – Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers and have a critical role to play in identifying, reporting, and managing potential cases of COVID-19.

Federal parties remain silent as drug shortages grow. More than 129 new shortages since election called
October 7, 2019 – Halfway through the election campaign and no federal parties have addressed the growing issue of drug shortages.

Canadian pharmacists launch 2019 election platform, call for action to address growing number of drug shortages
September 17, 2019 – CPhA releases its 2019 Election Platform, calling on all federal parties to demonstrate their commitment to addressing a range of barriers Canadian patients continue to face when it comes to accessing medications and health care services.

Canadian Pharmacists Association renews call for federal government to protect drug supply in light of U.S. drug importation developments
July 31, 2019 – In light of HHS Secretary Azar’s introduction of the Safe Importation Action Plan today, it’s now clear that there is support from the U.S. federal administration, which brings us one step closer to permitting the importation of Canadian drugs into the United States.

Drug shortages have 'greatly increased' over the past 3-5 years say Canadian pharmacists
July 26, 2019 – Pharmacists spending more and more of their time helping to mitigate the impact on their patients.

Additional Resources