Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Drug shortages have 'greatly increased' over the past 3-5 years say Canadian pharmacists

Pharmacists spending more and more of their time helping to mitigate the impact on their patients

July 26, 2019 (Ottawa): 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,’ according to a newly released survey by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA).

Drug shortages have become a time-consuming and unwelcome part of pharmacists’ daily practice, as they spend more and more of their time helping to mitigate the impact on their patients. More than two thirds of pharmacists (67%) deal with drug shortages daily or multiple times a day. Pharmacists estimate that managing drug shortages can occupy up to 20% of their shift, or up to 2 hours of a standard 10-hour shift.

From alerting prescribers and discussing alternative medications, to identifying alternative medications, and calling other pharmacies, suppliers, or wholesalers to inquire about stock, dealing with drug shortages is valuable time pharmacists spend away from delivering health care services to their patients at the pharmacy.

“While drug shortages are an unfortunate daily reality for patients and pharmacists, the scale and number of shortages and recalls that we have seen over the past year have resulted in patient confusion and distress, and placed an important spotlight on some of the gaps and challenges in Canada’s drug supply,” said Barry Power, Senior Director, Digital Content, Canadian Pharmacists Association.

Concern about drug shortages in Canada is also felt by a majority of Canadians (68%), particularly those over 60. According to a national survey of the Canadian public conducted by Abacus Data last year, one in four Canadians have either personally experienced or know someone who has experienced a drug shortage in the last 3 years.

“While we continue to be concerned about the growing number of drug shortages in Canada over the past few years, and the stress they place on patients and pharmacists, we now worry about the potential impact U.S. drug importation legislation could have,” added Power. “With over 20 pieces of legislation at the state and federal levels, the biggest risk for Canadians is exacerbating drug shortages – our drug supply simply is not equipped to supply a country 10 times our size.”  

Pharmacists across Canada work hard to minimize the effects of drug shortages by finding alternative drug therapies that are safe and appropriate for each patient. However, pharmacists and other frontline providers need further support. The reactive measures we have in place for dealing with each drug shortage as it arises do not help in mitigating shortages before they happen.

CPhA is calling on the federal government to develop an action plan to address the issue of drug shortages, including further research into the root causes of shortages, convening an international taskforce to identify and implement solutions, and better support for frontline health care providers. In addition, we call upon the Government of Canada to clearly articulate its position regarding the exportation of Canadian medications to other countries, and put measures in place to protect our drug supply from the impact of U.S importation legislation.

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About the Canadian Pharmacists Association

The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is the uniting national voice of pharmacy and the pharmacist profession in Canada. As pharmacists undertake an enhanced role in the delivery of health care services, CPhA ensures that the profession is recognized as a national leader in health care, influencing the policies, programs, budgets and initiatives affecting the profession and the health of Canadians.