Drug shortage to affect hospitals across Canada

Exclusive: Drug shortage to affect hospitals across Canada (external - login to view)

A looming shortage of drugs used daily in Eastern Ontario emergency departments, operating rooms and intensive care units could put surgeries in jeopardy after a major pharmaceuticals manufacturer slowed production of dozens of essential medications.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital is among several Ottawa-area hospitals that could cancel non-urgent surgeries if its supply of injectable painkillers, antibiotics and anesthetics falls to dangerously low levels.

Nearly 50 commonly used drugs, including intravenous narcotics such as Fentanyl and morphine, sedatives such as Lorazepam and Midazolam, and antibiotics such as Clindamycin, are in short supply across Canada.

The shortage is having the most serious impact on patients in intensive-care units and those who are dying and need pain management. Patients awaiting elective surgery are also affected.

Already, hospitals in West Quebec have announced that they are cancelling elective surgeries until Wednesday because of the drug shortage.

For now, the Queensway Carleton says it has enough medication to last three weeks. With daily deliveries becoming increasingly spotty, the hospital is bracing for cancelled surgeries if its supply lasts no more than a week.

"If we stopped getting deliveries entirely and the supply dipped to below a week, we would have to start notifying patients that there could be an issue with elective surgeries," said Michael Cohen, the Queensway Carleton's vicepresident of clinical services.

"Most of the hospitals in the region are in the same boat."

On Monday, Cohen met with his counterparts from other Eastern Ontario hospitals to discuss how to deal with increasingly frequent and critical drug shortages. Among other things, the hospitals are drawing up a contingency plan to decide which patients should have priority access to drugs in case the supply dipped to dangerously low levels.

"If the supplies keep coming, then you may not hear of any major issues. But the minute someone misses a shipment, you could run into trouble," said Cohen.

The slowdown is the result of production problems at Sandoz, a Quebec generic drug maker that is the sole supplier to Canadian hospitals of 90 per cent of all injectable drugs.

Last November, the company's plant in Boucherville was singled out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for "significant violations," including not having in place quality controls to prevent bacterial contamination.

Cohen said most hospitals are scrambling to find ways to minimize the impact of the slowdown. They include introducing strategies to make sure no drugs are wasted and, where appropriate, substituting similar drugs that are available in pill form.

Meanwhile, HealthPro Canada, the consortium that buys drugs in bulk for the country's hospitals, is looking for alternate drug suppliers, said Cohen.

Read more: Drug shortage threatens surgeries (external - login to view)
Quote: Originally Posted by B00MerView Post

The slowdown is the result of production problems at Sandoz, a Quebec generic drug maker that is the sole supplier to Canadian hospitals of 90 per cent of all injectable drugs.

Sandoz is not a Quebec company. It's a subsidary of Novartis, a Swiss company that was formed when Sandoz (at the time a Swiss drugmaker) merged with Ciba-Geigy (a very old Swiss company).

Anyways, it's not good news. But it's in-line with what normally happens when Democrats are in control in the US. Though I guess right now the Dems only control the Senate and the Executive branch.

ETA, as an example, between FY 2004 and 2009, the number of warning letters from the FDA was trending down from 725 warning letters in 2004, to 474 in 2009. With Obama increasing funding for FDA inspections, the number of warning letters jumped to 673 in 2010, and nearly tripled in 2011 at 1720 warning letters!
Last edited by Tonington; Mar 6th, 2012 at 04:54 PM..
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