Canadian drugstore shortages now extend beyond children’s pain and fever medications to other over-the-counter and prescription medications, exacerbating supply problems nationwide.
Hundreds of medicines are either in short supply or completely out of stock, with some store shelves stocked with allergy medicines for children, cough and cold syrups for adults, and eye drops, according to industry experts. , and even oral antibiotics are being depleted.
The situation has left pharmacists scrambling to find alternatives, but many Canadians end up in clinics and emergency rooms for ailments they would normally treat at home.
“The situation just keeps getting worse,” said Pam Kennedy, pharmacist and owner of Bridgewater Guardian Pharmacy in South Shore, Nova Scotia, in an interview Tuesday.
“Pharmacy teams are working hard to find other options for their patients, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Nearly a third of prescription drugs are now backordered, she said.
Some pharmaceutical brands have indicated that the shortage is expected to last until early 2023, Kennedy added.
“I don’t think liquid Buckley has been available for months,” she says of the popular cough syrup brand.
Health officials on fire
The drug shortage in Canada began last spring. However, surges in demand amid the influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19 outbreaks have exacerbated supply tightness in recent months. The lingering pandemic supply chain issues also contributed to the problem.
Health Canada officials were accused before the House of Representatives Health Committee on Tuesday for not handling the situation more quickly or effectively.
“The last time I saw these products on my community shelf was in May.
“For a community five hours from a children’s hospital, this is terrifying.”
Health Canada’s director of health product compliance, Lindsey Hollett, told the commission that there are currently as many as 800 drugs in short supply in Canada.
Twenty-three of them are considered critical, she said, meaning a shortage poses a significant risk to patients and the healthcare system.
To boost supplies of acetaminophen and ibuprofen products for children, Health Canada has arranged to import some from the United States and Australia.
In the meantime, drugstores like Bridgewater Guardian Pharmacy have had to put limits on the number of children’s Tylenol, Advil, or Motrin containers customers can buy, Kennedy said.
“I’ve seen grandmas come in and if they happen to find a bottle, they’re sending it to children in Alberta to help their grandchildren,” she said.
Canadians close to the border are also traveling to the US to purchase drugs, many of which are well stocked.
“In New Brunswick, people are crossing the border into the United States and bringing it back to Canada,” Kennedy said.
On the other hand, supply shortages have ripple effects across the supply chain, and there are also shortages of alternatives for key medicines.
For example, powders used to formulate medicines such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are currently in short supply.