Drug shortages cause problems for Canadians
Russell Thomas recently ran into a problem when he tried to fill his prescription to treat his Type 2 diabetes.
“They gave me 90 pills which would cover like one month and they said the rest is back ordered,” he said.
He tried searching it at other major pharmacies in the Vancouver area but he says he ran into roadblocks.
“Every one of the big ones, nobody’s got it,” Thomas said.
A search on the national drug shortage data base revealed his drug, Glucobay (Acarbose), had been experiencing a shortage in Canada.
CTV News contacted the manufacturer, Bayer, who said it had been experiencing problems at the German facility where the product is produced, which “may result in potential disruptions in supply.”
However, this is not an unusual occurrence. It happens daily across many drug classes.
“Sometimes it’s blood pressure medications, sometimes it’s cholesterol medication, antibiotics, injections,” said John Wong, a pharmacist with London Drugs.
There are many factors that can cause a drug shortage including global demand, lack of active ingredients and manufacturing problems.
“Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do?” asked Thomas.
Pharmacists will work with your doctor to find help you find alternative medication. They’ll also try to fill your prescription by calling around to other pharmacies to see if your drug is in stock somewhere else.
You can also be proactive by checking the Drug Shortages Canada website to see if there’s a shortage or an anticipated shortage. Then you can work with your doctor to get ahead of the potential shortage by finding alternatives.
“If they’re writing a prescription, it never hurts to ask them if there’s a shortage of this product,” added Wong.
While the shortage of Thomas's diabetes medication is expected to continue through to the end of August, he did find some available south of the border. Some pharmacies in Bellingham will take a prescription from a B.C. doctor but make sure you call ahead to confirm. We confirmed both Walmart and Walgreen's do take take B.C. prescriptions. However, if you are traveling anywhere else you will likely need a prescription from an American doctor to fil your medication needs.
While Thomas eventually did fill his prescription at Walmart's in Bellingham, it wasn't covered by his drug insurance.
“I don’t have a choice. There is no other choice,” he said.
But supplies there were also running low. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website says the manufacturer has made a business decision to discontinue marketing the drug in the U.S.
Bayer Canada's full statement:
Bayer received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its Supply Center in Leverkusen, Germany in January 2017. The warning letter addresses certain items in the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) area.
Since the routine GMP inspection by the FDA, Bayer has and continues to implement remediation and modernization activities in a timely manner. Ongoing remediation and modernization activities in the Leverkusen Supply Center may result in potential disruptions in supply, which will be closely aligned with the responsible health authorities, as appropriate.
Canada is currently affected by a temporary shortage of GLUCOBAY 50mg tablets and GLUCOBAY 100mg tablets.
We are committed to helping healthcare professionals access these products, and will provide updates as new information becomes available. Patients who are prescribed these products should speak with their healthcare professional to determine the best solution for them.
For up to date information about drug availability, please visit drugshortagescanada.ca.