Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Drug Shortages

Drug shortages are an ongoing concern within the Canadian health-care system. Impacting 1 in 4 Canadians, drug shortages increase the risk of medication errors, adverse events and patient non-adherence and they can cause considerable stress and anxiety for both patients and pharmacists.


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One in 4 icon

1 in 4 Canadians

have personally experienced a drug shortage or know someone who has.

20 percent icon


of a pharmacist's time is spent managing drug shortages.

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drug shortages a year are reported on average in Canada.


The role of pharmacists

Pharmacists are on the frontlines of drug shortages, working hard to minimize the impact on patients. They manage shortages by notifying patients and their health care teams, tracking down supply, finding appropriate alternatives and, in many cases, making necessary drug therapy changes independently. Managing drug shortages has become an unfortunate part of pharmacists’ daily practice that requires time and resources, often resulting in less time being spent directly with patients.


What CPhA is doing

CPhA has taken a leadership role to help address drug shortages in Canada. We were strong advocates for mandatory drug shortage reporting, which Health Canada enacted in March 2017, and we continue to advocate for proactive solutions and drug shortage prevention measures along with supports for pharmacists to be better equipped when they do occur.

Frontline data, perspective and support: When shortages do occur, like recent high-profile shortages of pediatric analgesics and antibiotics, CPhA works closely with Health Canada and other stakeholders to represent the pharmacy profession. This includes advocating on pharmacists’ behalf, communicating shortage updates and recommendations, collecting frontline data to help inform allocation and procurement strategies, and developing tools and resources to support pharmacy and patients.

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Federal Recommendations

Now is the time for the federal government to take action, prioritize drug supply, and implement measures to reduce and better prepare for future drug shortages.

  1. Encourage a robust pharmaceutical market in Canada that promotes Canadian manufacturing and supports manufacturers during a shortage.
  2. Create and maintain a list of medications at high-risk of shortage and enhance data collection to monitor potential shortages.
  3. Equip and authorize pharmacists across Canada to effectively manage drug shortages.
  4. Review Health Canada’s mandate and authorities to ensure it can proactively engage and respond to shortages as they emerge.
  5. Provide financial support to patients who may be required to pay more for alternative medications during a shortage.

Learn more


Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee: CPhA 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 also actively participates in ad hoc working groups created to help address specific shortages when they occur (e.g. pediatric analgesics, amoxicillin, nitroglycerin spray, etc.)

Tier Assignment Committee (TAC): CPhA is a member of the TAC alongside representatives of federal, provincial and territorial governments, health care professionals and industry stakeholders. The Committee makes recommendations on the tier assignment of actual and anticipated drug shortages.

Health Products Supply Chain Advisory Committee: Given recent high-profile shortages, the federal government has created senior level Health Products Supply Chain Advisory Committee, which CPhA sits on. The Advisory Committee’s objective is to identify challenges and long-term solutions to strengthen Canada’s health product supply chain, with an immediate focus on prescription and non-prescription medications and medical devices.

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