It’s a cancer drug given to thousands of patients in B.C. and right across the country, myself included.

It’s called tamoxifen and it can be used to treat breast cancer and prevent reoccurrence.

But right now, Health Canada says there is a “national shortage” of the drug.

And for patients, this is troubling news.

“While product remains available within the healthcare system, Health Canada is aware that supply levels are low,” the organization said in a statement to CTV.

Here in B.C., where approximately 5,800 patients were given tamoxifen in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, BC Cancer is well aware of Health Canada’s “critical shortage status for tamoxifen."

“While BC Cancer still has a limited supply of tamoxifen available, we are working closely with our oncologists on managing the situation until the supply levels are returned to normal levels,” BC Cancer said in a statement.

“Understandably, we appreciate news of this shortage is likely to cause concern for patients receiving tamoxifen and oncologists are speaking directly with their patients about managing this current situation. “

In our province, only BC Cancer and the Cancer Oncology Network dispense tamoxifen to patients. BC Cancer says this allows it to “keep a close track of our inventory and dispensing, and ensure patients continue to receive tamoxifen.”


But in other parts of Canada, the drug is dispensed through community pharmacies and there are published reports of patients having difficulty obtaining the drug.

According to Health Canada, suppliers indicate shortages are due to manufacturing disruptions and increased demand.

Health Canada says it’s working with stakeholders to “share information and identify mitigation measures. Health Canada has identified international supply and is working to make it available to Canadian patients as soon as possible as a short term measure to manage the supply gap.”

Let’s hope the new supply becomes available sooner rather than later. There's a lot at stake.

Michele Brunoro will be providing ongoing updates during her medical leave on her blog, The 3,800 Club.