Canadian Cancer Society Urges Federal Leadership on Drug Shortages

12 March 2012

Toronto -

The Canadian Cancer Society is calling on Federal Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, to address the increasingly urgent issue of drug shortages in Canada.

“The Canadian Cancer Society is very concerned and disheartened about drug shortages in Canada, including cancer drugs,” says Dan Demers, Director, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society. “For patients who are already going through a difficult time, not having access to appropriate drugs is unacceptable.”

Drug shortages in Canada have been increasing over the last year. In February, shortages escalated due to a temporary production slow down by Sandoz Canada, a Quebec-based drug manufacturer. The company is implementing changes to address recent concerns raised by the US Food and Drug Administration. Sandoz also temporarily suspended production as a result of a fire in the facility on March 4. It expects to resume production in the near future.

“It’s time for the Federal Health Minister to do more now before drug shortages get worse and more patients are affected,” says Paul Lapierre, Vice President, Public Affairs and Cancer Control, Canadian Cancer Society. “Canada needs effective ways to deal with the current drug shortages, as well as solutions to prevent shortages from happening in the first place.”

The Federal Health Minister has taken some steps to address drug shortages, but has said she’s prepared to take more action if needed to protect the health of Canadians.

The Canadian Cancer Society urges the Federal Minister of Health to provide leadership to address this critical healthcare issue by:

  • ensuring there is mandatory listing of unavailable drugs by drug manufacturers
  • developing early warning systems to identify potential drug shortages
  • assisting hospitals and provinces in dealing with drug shortages
  • putting systems in place to prevent shortages from escalating
  • working with other jurisdictions to investigate the root causes of drug shortages and, where possible, taking action to prevent them from occurring

While solving the causes of drug shortages is the primary goal, until this is achieved it is imperative that patients and medical professionals are notified as early as possible of any shortages. They must receive clear information on the reasons for the shortage, the estimated length of the shortage and alternative medications available to them.

“We applaud efforts being made by hospitals, doctors and pharmacists in dealing with drug shortages,” says Demers. “But the Federal Health Minister needs to step up her actions so that these healthcare professionals can spend more time treating their patients and less time scrambling to get the drugs they need for treatment. Other countries have taken a more pro-active approach to drug shortages and it’s time Canada did the same.”

The Society is also recommending that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health investigate the root causes of drug shortages and develop an action plan to prevent future occurrences. It’s important that all necessary stakeholders, including patients directly affected by drug shortages, provide their perspective and advice. The committee should also develop recommendations to:

  • ensure patients and medical practitioners have advance warning of shortages, are informed of the cause of the shortage and of the expected duration
  • prevent shortages from escalating
  • ensure patients and practitioners can access safe, effective and comparable alternative medication for the duration of the shortage

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Christine Harminc

Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 416 934-5340