Combating Drug Shortages

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Chanice Henry

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The threat of a drug shortage places considerable anxiety and concern on a patient, especially with critical medications.

When a shortage looms pharmacy teams and hospitals work tirelessly to reallocate and move product to supply the patients in need.

Despite these efforts, the situation can’t always be resolved, which may result in treatments cancelled, delayed or postponed for some patients. 

Medicine supply shortage

These scenarios have the potential to cause major life disruptions for an individual. Jill Craven, Vice President Pharmacy Services at Mohawk Medbuy Corporation, said: “Psychologically it would be very traumatic for a patient to be told: ‘Unfortunately the drug of choice for your particular type of cancer is not available. So we are going to use an older drug or a drug that theoretically has the same applications.’ What kind of psychological trauma has been added to an already traumatic event in their lives?

“If the cancer recurs there’s this huge ‘what if’ question. It might have recurred anyway, but now you introduce doubt and loss of trust into the system. Drug shortages play a huge psychological impact on those clinicians and patients.

“In Canada, we’re very proud of our healthcare system because we sustain it, it’s universal and nobody goes bankrupt because of getting a diagnosis for cancer.

"Yet all of a sudden, this system that you trust wholeheartedly, lets you down.”

Canada, as well as many other countries, hit a major shortage of sodium bicarbonate in the summer of 2017.

Tough decisions were made so patients who were the most in need would get supplied to first.

Health Canada’s Response

In 2016, Health Canada introduced new regulations requiring drug manufacturers to report actual and anticipated drug shortages as well as discontinuations on the webpage: Drug Shortages Canada.

The obligation to report to a national database will hopefully equip those in authority with more visibility to deploy mitigation strategies when notice of an anticipated drug shortage is provided in Canada, which stands as the 9th largest pharma market in the world.

In this whitepaper we examine the main causes of drug shortages and new strategies being deployed around the world to prevent a full shortage of medicine occurring. 


  • Manufacturing risks
  • Packaging and labelling
  • Lapses in quality
  • Unforeseen spikes in demand
  • Globalization of Drug Manufacturing
  • Regulatory interceptions
  • Pricing
  • Due Diligence
  • Buying Group Structure
  • Data Analytics
  • Collaboration
  • Case Studies