c l i n i c a l p r a c t i c e
Canadians are paying the price for drug shortages
According to the results
of a new survey completed by over 1,070 members of the CPA, CMA, and CSHP
in late 2012, drug shortages clearly remain a problem for Canada’s health system.
According to the results of a new
survey completed by over 1,070 members of the Canadian Pharmacists
Association, Canadian Medical Association, and Canadian Society of
Hospital Pharmacists in late 2012, drug shortages clearly remain a
problem for Canada’s health system.
The survey confirms that the health and
well-being of patients is being negatively affected, and that physicians
and pharmacists are devoting a significant amount of time to dealing
with shortages, time that could be better spent improving patient care.
According to the survey, 66% of physicians
indicated that drug shortages have become worse since 2010, and 94% of
pharmacists reported that they had difficulty sourcing a medication for
a patient in the past week.
Sixty-four per cent of physicians
indicated that drug shortages had consequences for patients, while 41%
of pharmacists reported that their patients’ health had been compromised
due to drug shortages. Physicians and pharmacists both reported that
drug shortages have compromised care with up to 20% of patients
impacted. Most frequently noted consequences are delayed access to
medication; use of a less effective medication or formulation; and,
increased risk of an adverse effect or safety incident. In addition, one
out of 5 physicians reported that clinical deterioration had occurred in
While pharmacists and physicians are
trying to source medication for some patients, they have less time to
dedicate to other patients:
67% of physicians reported an increase
in time spent on research and consultation to source alternative
47% of physicians reported an increase
in length of patient visits due to substitution concerns.
61% of community and hospital
pharmacists had difficulty sourcing a medication in their last
76% of community and hospital
pharmacists indicated that drug shortages have a significant impact
on their work load with more time spent looking for alternative
drugs and communicating with other health professionals about drug
“Let there be no doubt
these results demonstrate that drug shortages remain a serious problem
in the Canadian health care system. Patients are suffering, and the
ability of health providers to deliver quality care for all Canadians is
being compromised”, stated Doug Sellinger, President of the Canadian
Society of Hospital Pharmacists.
“The efforts of health care professionals
to lessen the impact on patients have come at the cost of diverting
personnel from other areas of care; this diversion is not sustainable.
We need a reliable, resilient system to prevent, report, and manage drug
shortages”, he added.
“Drug shortages impact patient care,
patient health, and the efficiency of the overall health care system,”
said Dr Anna Reid, President of the Canadian Medical Association.
“Patients who can’t get the medicines they need pay a terrible toll. The
commitment of physicians and other health care professionals has helped
to lessen the impact on their patients, but it comes at a price: time
better spent with patients is instead being used by physicians to
identify alternative drugs and therapies.”
“Our organizations are calling on
governments, industry, and other stakeholders to continue working
towards developing effective, sustainable solutions to dealing with drug
shortages,” stated Paula MacNeil, President of the Canadian Pharmacists
Association. “CPhA has taken a lead on this issue for many years, but
only through collaborative efforts will we see meaningful change.”
Additional survey results can be accessed
through the survey backgrounder on the websites of the
Canadian Pharmacists Association; the
Canadian Medical Association; or the
Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists.