Health system protects patient care amid drug shortage

VICTORIA – The Province, health authorities and Health Shared Services BC, and B.C.’s federal partners are working together to protect patient care and avoid disruptions during a Canada-wide shortage of certain medications used primarily in hospitals, Health Minister Michael de Jong said on Wednesday.

Drug manufacturer Sandoz Canada, which is a key supplier of the country’s injectable drugs, has temporarily suspended manufacturing and/or reduced the amounts produced of a number of its products due to operational issues. This decrease in supply may last for up to 18 months.

This has caused lower stocks in hospitals in B.C. and throughout Canada of some routinely used drugs, especially injectable narcotics such as morphine, ydromorphone and fentanyl. These drugs are used to treat moderate to severe pain in such cases as patients after surgery and cancer patients.

Today de Jong said the Ministry of Health and its federal and provincial partners have been working closely together to ensure all hospitals have these critical supplies. Hospitals and health authorities have shared stocks when necessary and will continue to pool resources. Hospitals are also using oral versions of some of the drugs when appropriate.

The Province is exploring securing international supplies and has identified potential supply in the Unites States, the United Kingdom, Austria, Australia, France, Ireland and Germany. British Columbia is working with other provinces, such as Manitoba and Alberta, to look at joint contracting opportunities with alternate suppliers.
At this time, there has been no known effect on patient care. However, if stocks continue to decrease, elective procedures may have to be rescheduled at some locations. Health authorities have not yet had to make any such decisions.