Story 44 Valproic Acid, Fluvoxamine, Topiramate

A woman from Calgary writes:

I personally have been impacted by a prescription drug shortage. In 2010, I was diagnosed with vestibular migraines, characterized by 24/7 severe and chronic vertigo. When the vertigo was most acute I could not go into stores or areas that were visually complex, I had trouble walking, and I had to rely upon others to do many tasks. I was diagnosed by a neurologist, and we tried several medications to treat the disorder without any success.

Finally, in 2011, valproic acid (an anticonvulsant) produced by Mylan helped partially control the symptoms – at least I got some relief and I could finally stand up and walk without falling over. But in 2012, my pharmacist informed me that Mylan would not be producing valproic acid and this shortage could last a year.

I had difficulty switching between brands (I got ill) so I had to remain on the Mylan brand that I was initially started on. The supply of valproic acid made by other pharmaceutical companies at that time was also very low so I had to consult with my neurologist and find a replacement medication. As I had a partial response with an anticonvulsant, he selected topiramate.

Switching medications was extremely difficult but the response to topiramate was worth it. It truly has been a life saving medication for me. I have had a 100 percent response to the medication. Given the severity of my symptoms I will need to be on this medication for life.

I never thought about drug shortages again until recently. My brother had been taking fluvoxamine that was prescribed by a psychiatrist to treat social anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Presently there is no fluvoxamine available in our city (Calgary). So his doctor had to decide on a different medication. I learned that there is also a shortage of Lithium.

The other day I was discussing my brother’s situation with my pharmacist and asked him if I should be worried about topiramate availability in Canada. I was quite surprised and rather upset when he answered “yes” – that topiramate is expected to be in short supply in the future. Without that medication I will be not be able to function. I am extremely worried about this situation and angry that it is happening and we don’t know why.