Drug shortages in Canada: Fiscal year 2022 to 2023 in review

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Organization: Health Canada

Date published: 2023-11-06

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What is a drug shortage

Over 9,000 prescription drugs and 2,000 over-the-counter drugs are approved for sale in Canada. This number varies as new drugs are approved and others are discontinued.

A drug shortage is when there’s not enough supply of a drug to meet demand. Some shortages can last longer and are more complex than others. A shortage can impact anyone, such as:

Not all shortages are a cause for concern as most shortages are successfully managed before they impact patients.

How Health Canada addresses shortages

For certain drugs, manufacturers must report anticipated and actual drug shortages and discontinuations on the drug shortage reporting website.

To help prevent, mitigate and resolve shortages, Health Canada works closely with:

It’s our top priority to try to prevent shortages when possible. We also take actions to mitigate their most severe impacts when they present a significant risk to patients and the healthcare system.

Learn more:

Drug shortages in 2022 to 2023

In 2022 to 2023, over 2,700 drug shortages were reported.

Companies need to report each time they cannot fully meet the demand for their drug. Not all reports are cause for concern for patients as many of the same drugs are available in different formats or quantities. Most shortages are successfully managed before they impact patients.

Top 3 reasons for shortages

  1. Manufacturing problems
  2. Unexpected increases in demand
  3. Shipping delays


The average length of a drug shortage reported during this period was 98 days.

Shortages with the highest impact

Drug shortages with the highest potential impact are called Tier 3 shortages. Among all reported shortages, only a small percentage have a high impact on patients and the healthcare system.

From 2022 to 2023, those shortages with the highest impact made up 0.4% of all marketed prescription drugs.

Of the 34 drug shortages that had the highest impact on patients and the healthcare system:

During this reporting period, Health Canada:

Highlights of 2 high-impact shortages

Two examples of high-impact shortages over this period include:

Pediatric analgesic shortage

An unprecedented increase in demand caused the shortage of children’s and infants’ pain and fever reducing medications from August 2022 to March 2023.

We took the following actions:

We continue to work with stakeholders to make sure there will be an adequate supply of these drugs for the 2023 to 2024 cold and flu season.

Rifampin shortage

During the winter of 2023, Canada experienced a shortage of Rifampin, which is used to treat tuberculosis. The shortage was the result of manufacturing issues.

The shortage could have greatly impacted certain rural and Indigenous communities with higher rates of tuberculosis infections.

We took the following actions:

The shortage was resolved in spring 2023.

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