Two months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian pharmacists say they continue to face challenges in obtaining certain drugs that their patients need.
According to a new survey from the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA), only 3% of Canadian pharmacists reported having received their full order of drugs for each order placed with wholesalers in the first week of May.
CPhA told CTVNews.ca in an email that pharmacists’ questions are most concerned about inhalers, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) used to treat high blood pressure, eye drops glaucoma, narcotics such as oxycocet and other blood pressures. medication.
The survey, released Wednesday, found that 56 to 60 percent of pharmacists received reduced amounts of medication on most or all of the orders placed in the same week, while 46 percent of pharmacists received no stock of certain drugs.
Nardine Nakhla, community pharmacist and professor at the University of Waterloo, told CTVNews.ca that “consequences can be significant” when people do not have timely access to their medications.
“For patients without their rescue inhaler, it can mean an asthma attack. For patients without their ARB, this may mean high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke for some. For patients without their narcotic, this can mean withdrawal and a loss of tolerance, with the risk of overdose upon restart, “said Nakhla in an email on Friday.
Mina Tadrous, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Pharmacy, said switching to alternative medications is an option when there is a shortage, but there is often still a delay in getting these medications.
“If you’ve been on a prescription for a long time and suddenly have to change, it’s a lot of work and extra strain on the healthcare system. You have to navigate trying to get the doctor to agree with the prescriber and then work with the pharmacist as well – this requires a lot of effort, especially during a pandemic, “said Tadrous on Wednesday a telephone interview.
Tadrous added that pharmacists are looking for shortages before they happen so that patients have more time to consider alternatives before pharmacies run out of a certain drug.
Although Canada experienced an increase in shortages during the pandemic, CPhA says it has not yet turned into an emergency that some health officials feared.
However, the association said pharmacists remain “very concerned”.
“While we commend Health Canada for its efforts to monitor the supply of drugs and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the health of Canadians, we urge the federal government to remain alert for further disruptions of drug supply over the next few months due to manufacturing disruptions in countries like China and India or future peaks in demand, “he said in a statement.
Health Canada told CTVNews.ca on Wednesday that it “knew there could be supply shortages related to COVID-19 and [is] monitor the situation closely. “
“We will continue to use all available tools to help manage critical national shortages when they occur and to work with partners so that Canadians have access to the drugs they need,” Health Canada said in a statement by email.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association first warned of the possibility of shortages in early March when it noted that supply chains for finished ingredients and finished drugs were starting to be disrupted in China. In response, the association recommended that pharmacies limit the amount of drugs they dispense to a 30-day supply per patient during the pandemic.
However, as the provinces reopen their savings, the one-month limit on the supply of prescription drugs was lifted.
CPhA spokesperson Barry Power said this is problematic as drug wholesalers continue to limit the amount of drugs shipped, which means pharmacies do not get more than 30 days in some cases.
“Wholesalers always ration what they can send to a pharmacy. So if you order 10, you could have six and owe the rest. With many provinces returning to 90 days of dispensation, we are concerned that this is going to become a bigger problem, “Power said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Deputy Minister of Health Stephen Lucas said in April that the COVID-19 pandemic would likely result in a shortage of drugs and medical devices for Canadians.
Lucas said the federal government has a dedicated team to solve the problem and is working with regulators in the United States, Australia and Europe to identify where supply chain disruptions are occurring.
The federal government has also issued an interim order to authorize the importation and sale of certain international drugs that may not fully meet regulatory requirements in Canada to address the drug shortage.
CPhA said it continues to work with governments to identify other drugs most at risk of potential shortages.
“We hope that the Government of Canada will continue to prioritize this problem and work with us to examine the current challenges affecting access to the drugs needed in Canada as well as the longer term impacts,” said the release.