Drug shortages in Canada: Information for health care providers

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The role of health care providers in addressing drug shortages

Doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers in hospitals, clinics, the community and other settings are patients' first line of support when dealing with drug shortages. Dealing with drug shortages is a regular task for many health care providers. Thanks to significant efforts by health care providers behind the scenes, patients are often provided with their medications as expected without becoming aware of supply constraints. In these instances, drug shortages are mitigated and patients don't experience any difficulty obtaining their drugs.

At the national level, stakeholders along the supply chain, including health care professional organizations, come together through the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee on Drug Shortages (MSSC). This committee is co-chaired by Health Canada and a rotating provincial/territorial co-chair.

In addition to the MSSC, Health Canada assembles an ad hoc Tier Assignment Committee (TAC), whose membership includes federal and provincial/territorial governments and health care professionals. The Canadian Medical Association is a standing member of TAC. Health care providers such as a pharmacist or physician with relevant expertise are invited to sit as the ad hoc member to give advice on specific drugs or classes of drugs as appropriate. Health Canada may also reach out to specialist associations to discuss the issuance of clinical guidelines for certain shortages.

TAC members determine the severity of a shortage and make recommendations on the tier assignment of a drug in shortage. This assessment includes:

Health care providers can find information on drug shortages deemed the most critical on the Tier 3 drug shortages page. Consult the List of designated drugs for exceptional importation and sale to view foreign-authorized products that may be available for patients impacted by shortages of these drugs.

For more information on tier levels and the tiered notification and communication framework, consult the MSSC Protocol for Notification and Communication of Drug Shortages (PDF document).

Using the Drug Shortages Canada website

The Drug Shortages Canada reporting website is where companies go to report shortages and discontinuations. It may be used to view actual and anticipated shortages or discontinuations of specific drugs. This website also lists the current Tier 3 drug shortages and their associated reports. In particular, the "Search Reports" function can be used to view reports (reports for actual shortages, anticipated shortages or both) for all drug products containing the active ingredient(s) of interest. The "Search Products" function allows users to find out if there is, or has been, a shortage or discontinuation report issued for a certain product.

The information on this website is intended to help drug supply chain stakeholders gain insight on current and anticipated supply disruptions, and to mitigate them as early as possible.

Once you create an account on this website, you can sign up to receive email notifications on new and updated reports of shortages or discontinuations for specific products, active ingredients and/or companies of interest to you and your patients. An overview for public users is available to help you create an account, use the search functions and sign up for notifications.

You may also search the Drug Product Database to find the market status of drugs authorized for sale by Health Canada.

If there is a drug shortage that is not on the website, but you believe it should be, please contact the Drug Shortages Division.

Contact us

Drug Shortages Division: Drug.shortages-Penurie.de.medicament@hc-sc.gc.ca

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