Home: What is the drug shortage?

Since late 2010, the public slowly became aware of a shortage of prescription drugs. This is a global problem, and Canada is affected because almost all of our drugs are made in other countries. Most–if not all–the missing drugs are generics, older, and less expensive because their patents have expired.

The causes are poorly understood. The solutions are elusive.

On this website we have built a resource on Canadian drug shortages by posting patient stories about the impact of hard-to-find or missing medicine, media reports on the issue, and government and industry efforts to track the problem and its possible causes and consequences. We will also link policy and political statements as they emerge, as well as position statements and submissions by organizations and individuals. We have a page to track lobbying activities of the pharmaceutical industry at the House of Commons.

This website is dedicated to tracking the problem in Canada, but the GLOBAL dimensions of problem are very important to finding solutions. View our media pages to find reports about its effects in other parts of the world.

We have four questions:

1. Why does Canada not start making the missing generic drugs for itself and others?

2. Why is the pharmaceutical industry divided into two warring factions–brand-name (called research or “innovation”) and generic?

3. Why doesn’t Canada show some international leadership in measuring the impact and extent of this problem and in finding solutions?

4. Why does Canada not have an Essential Medicines list as recommended by WHO and our own federal Standing Committee on Health?


Report all shortages to your MP! To find out who is your MP follow this link.

Please email Jacalyn Duffin at duffin.jacalyn1@gmail.com if you have a story to tell about drug shortages, a media report or statement that we should link, or any other information to contribute to www.canadadrugshortage.com.

Jacalyn Duffin is a hematologist and historian who, for more than three decades, worked clinically in cancer care and taught students of medicine, nursing, history and philosophy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada where she is Professor Emerita in the Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine.


See  Media Reports for CanadaUS, and 83 other Countries by continent [recent items China, Europe, India, Liberia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela]

See also Policy and PoliticsStatements, and Patient Stories 36 37, 38, 39, 4041, 42Story 41 includes a good suggestion!

Follow us on Twitter! #DrugShortage

last update 20 January 2018