Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Pharmacists see spikes in drug shortages during pandemic

April 17, 2020 (Ottawa): 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.

In the months leading up to March, the government’s mandatory drug shortage website had been listing approximately five new shortages per day. The number of shortages reported to the database has climbed steadily throughout March, but increased dramatically in the last few weeks.

From March 24 to April 7, an average of 11.6 shortages were reported to the database each day. During the week of March 31 to April 7, this number increased to 15.9 shortages per day. Although these do not necessarily translate to shortages at the pharmacy level, this is an alarming trend.

“These shortages affect a broad number of medications used for a variety of different diseases and indications,” says Barry Power, Senior Director, Digital Content, Canadian Pharmacists Association. “We’ve seen a spike in the number of medications listed on the government drug shortage website in the past few weeks which makes it difficult to predict how these will affect Canada’s drug supply as the global pandemic evolves.”

Additionally, Health Canada has identified 3 COVID-related severe shortages:

  • Hydroxychloroquine: While there is currently no evidence to suggest that this medication is a cure for COVID-19, increased demand is now making it difficult for patients who rely on this drug for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
  • Inhalers used for asthma and COPD: The demand for inhalers in the last few months has increased significantly for both hospitals, as they prepare for COVID, and in the community setting as people stockpile medications.
  • Certain medications used in intensive care units, including sedatives, muscle relaxants, etc.

“Managing Canada’s drug supply has required an extraordinary level of effort, expertise and care by pharmacy teams under the most difficult of circumstances,” says Power. “Pharmacy professionals across the country continue to work tirelessly to support their patients and their communities and to make sure that patients have equal access to the medication supply.”

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.