Story 35 BCG for bladder cancer

A urologist working in an academic health centre writes:
We are indeed affected by the BCG shortage. We understand that Cancer Care Ontario is working on some recommendations for managing short supplies, and we have discussed our options in our group.
We have been told that our supply is ++ constrained and that future patients (for the time being), will need either a dosage decrease or a substituted drug, mitomycin C (neither as effective in studies).
The backorder is supposed to be resolved in late October.


Story 34 Paclitaxel

A pharmacist in a cancer treatment centre reports that his hospital’s stock of cancer chemotherapy drug, paclitaxel, produced by the Canadian firm Biolyse, has run out. Soon an order will be placed with the American firm, Hospira.

The Hospira price for a treatment is $4000 — whereas the Biolyse price is $50.
The increased, unexpected, annual cost to his institution will be over $2M.

Health Canada inspectors revoked the licence of  Biolyse because of publicly unspecified safety violations,  and it had to stop production.

The pharmacist asks the following questions, which we cannot answer:

1. If safety had really been violated, why were pharmacies allowed to use up the remaining stock presumably made under the same “unacceptable” conditions?

2. Why is the American firm’s price for this drug 80 [EIGHTY!] times that of the Canadian company?

3. What are the real costs of manufacturing this drug?

Story 33 Delatestryl (Testosterone enanthate)

My current story begins when I went to get my prescription refill that I pickup every few months.  I had called the refill in a few days prior to go pick-up later.  When I went to get my prescription at the pharmacy they told me that they did not have any of the drug and therefore could not fill my prescription. The pharmacist also said that they are not able to order any, that it was on back order and that they may not be able to get any until June.
This has happened before in the past with this medication and thankfully it is not immediately life threatening. It is a therapeutic long term treatment that if I do not take it for a long time can cause problems for me.  This drug is a brand name drug from Valeant Canada.
There are alternatives, but often with a shortage of this medication the one that is the best alternative is also in shortage and the other alternatives are very ineffective and/or costly.
Last time there was a shortage I had to use a very poor replacement in capsule form and it was not very effective and it caused me to have stomach upset. The other alternatives are very high priced and also not as effective.
Also, last time the shortage happened the product was just sold to Valeant from another company and I found out later that they had said it was a supply issue with ingredients and that they were not able to produce the medication. This time I have not found any information about why there is a shortage and why it is on back order.
Learning my lesson from the last time this happened and got stuck with poor options, I called around to a few pharmacies and asked if they had stock or could order. The first pharmacy that I called had it in stock, so I immediately called my Doctor’s office and left a message to request that they transfer my prescription or write a new one to the other pharmacy and explained the situation. My doctor actually sent them a double request in case the problem continues longer than June. It was for a  5 months instead of 2.5 months (2.5 is usually how long the product usually lasts) this was also because I will be taking this drug long term.
Once the pharmacy received the prescription from my doctor, they called and said they had to order the medication (I guess that they used up what they had when I had called). I begin to wonder, if they can to order it then why could the other pharmacy not order it? Could the second pharmacy have a warehouse with older stock, but my regular one just has none? I honestly really don’t know how that works.
They were not able to fill the complete prescription because the medication came prefab from the manufacturer with an expiry date set to expire around June and that is how long I will be using it before I need another.
Thankfully my problem is not directly life threatening if I miss a dose. I was also able to get some of the drug with considerable effort. If I had waited even a few days I may not have been so lucky.
Anyone who may be having the same issue should look into compounding
pharmacies. Sometimes it is possible to get a replacement drug that way
depending on what the drug is.


Story 32 Haloperidol and Lorazepam injectables

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto as well as other hospitals are encountering extreme shortages of two very important and potent injectable pharmaceutical products.  The product is Haloperidol LA 50 and 100 mg/ml intramuscular injection used as an antipsychotic agent.  Possible availability for the latter is sometime in December; the former has no expected delivery date.  In addition, the anxiety reducing Lorazepam 4 mg/ml, 1 ml vials is unavailable until sometime in December as well.  Pharmacist-led discussions and communication is occurring with clinicians to determine best possible alternatives for patients, including those that have been stabilized on the long acting antipsychotic, Haloperidol.

Wayne Marigold, Director, Pharmaceutical Services

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Story 31 Topical ear and eye treatment

An Ontario GP reports

Garamycin (otic and ophthalmic) and topical trentinoin are no longer available.


Story 30 Proctosedyl for hemorrhoids

A 63 year old man wrote in late June and again in mid-August 2013:

Proctosedyl suppository (cinchoncaine and hydrocortisone) is not available in my Ontario city, and the manufacturer claims to have been having trouble making it. My pharmacist has been unable to find it or any substitute. He said that they hoped to have supply again in the first or second week of July. In another province where we went on holiday the local pharmacy did not have it, but had a different version as a substitute (proctol).

When I got home, my pharmacy and all the other ones in its chain in my city had neither proctosedyl nor proctol. I tried another chain. They did not have it. In mid-August, an independent pharmacy had only one small box of proctosedyl left and could not get any more, but was able to order in proctol.

The pharmacists called their suppliers — one had proctor the other did not. Therefore I wonder what is going on at the level of the distribution network.

This has been going on for two months (August 18).

Story 29 Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) for stroke

A neurologist from Calgary reports that on 30 April 2013 Hoffman-LaRoche announced a shortage of tPA, an injectable drug used to treat acute stroke by breaking down clots. It is an old reliable drug  first approved for use by US FDA in 1996.

Neurologists were given just one week’s notice and told that they can expect the shortage to last two weeks.

An alternative drug is available but it is not yet approved for use in Canada, although it may eventually prove to be superior to tPA. Neurologists are advised to obtain consent from their patients prior to using the unapproved treatment.


Story 28 Clobazam for epilepsy

Since early January 2013 Canadians with epilepsy have been having difficulty filling their prescriptions for clobazam.

Epilepsy Ontario e-News has been tracking the problem and offering advice.

Sarah Begin – has also written about her experience with this shortage on her blog:
My Own Personal Experience With Canadian Drug Shortages - January 14, 2013

Story 27 Beta-blocker (acebutolol) for blood pressure

Your faithful webmaster has just been told that acebutolol–a generic, beta-blocker that she has taken for more than 12 years to control blood pressure–is now in short supply. Yes! it’s same the little pill you see above in the banner of this website.

Ironically, I leave tomorrow for a conference at Emory University in Atlanta — on the drug shortage problem.

The drug is said to be on back order. Nevertheless it does not appear on lists at any of the sites dedicated to tracking the shortages.

Instead of being able to fill the 3-month prescription, the pharmacist provided medication for 10 days, but charged the full amount and owes me the rest. He also promised to “phone around” to try find more somewhere in the city.

Neither he nor I have time for this fiddling– but there’s more (I know it–does everyone else?): suddenly stopping a beta-blocker can lead to angina, irregular heart rate, and heart attacks.

I’ll update this post when I have more information … if I am still here.

22 June 2012

While I was in Atlanta, my pharmacist found the remaining 80 days worth of pills. I notice that the manufacturer has changed. I am grateful. Looks like I will live to keep running this website.

The conference was interesting. Watch for a Consensus report on the Statements page.

25 September 2012

Well, it happened again. I renewed my BP meds again in mid-September 2012, and was told to come for pick up in two days. But when I got there,  once again the pharmacist could give me only 10 days worth — and he owes me another 90 days. Three days later, I got a call that the remainder was in stock.

However, this raises a new question–not life threatening, but irritating.

I am on two prescription medications — each prescribed for three months–repeat times three ( a year’s worth). Normally, I would go to the pharmacy four times over the year.

Instead the two drugs are now out of synchrony owing to the shortage. I go twice for each renewal–that is SIXTEEN visits to the pharmacy every year instead of four. Maybe pharmacy owners actually like this arrangement — more visits=more sales of other stuff. I can’t believe that they do–but I wonder: Is anyone  tracking the effect on sales? AND — who has time for this?

Story 26 Shortage of Divalproex sodium (or valproic acid)

A reader in the Greater Toronto Area wrote the following to his Member of Parliament and to us:
“I would like to bring to your attention some strange going ons in the pharmaceutical industry.  I have been taking a particular drug, Apo-Divalproex, for years and all of a sudden, my drug store says it is on back order and to check back in a few weeks.  I do so and am told that it is still on back order and to check again in a few more weeks.  In the meantime, I am running out of this medication.
A quick search of the internet (in particular shows that it is not just my area or even my medication that is mysteriously in short supply.
It seems that even some particular medications (not mine in particular) are manufactured in only one factory on earth and if ever there is a fire or a similar disaster, it could spell big problems for people that rely on these medications to survive.
I urge you to fight for government regulations to ensure that drug shortages become a thing of the past.”
To this story we can also add the fact that the shortage has not been reported by the manufacturer as per the agreement made between government and industry September 2011.
Report all shortages to your MP!
If you would like to find out who is your MP follow this link.