Supply-line disruptions could cause Canadian drug shortage
OTTAWA -- Canadians should brace for possible drug shortages as COVID-19 disrupts global supply lines, the federal health ministry's top public servant says.
A lack of medications to fill ordinary prescriptions is an ongoing issue in Canada, but deputy health minister Stephen Lucas says COVID-19 is worsening the problem.
"We anticipate there will be shortages of health products given the global demand," he told the House of Commons health committee.
The government has a team dedicated to addressing the problem, he said.
The group is working with regulators in the United States, Australia and Europe to try to spot where the supply-chain disruptions are likely to occur, and what impact that might have on pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
"In addition, steps are taken to find substitutes and allow for the importation of other products that can help address it," Lucas said.
Last week the House of Commons passed a massive bill giving the government the power to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, including measures to prevent drug shortages.
The government has essentially given itself the power to pass any new regulations it considers necessary to prevent or alleviate shortages, but has not revealed what those might be.
The government has also given itself the authority to allow manufacturers to make products needed during the health crisis, regardless of patent protections.
That would allow more manufacturers to make drugs that are in short supply.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association has encouraged its members to limit patients to 30-day supplies of their prescriptions. Health Canada has also asked Canadians not to stockpile drugs in an effort to avoid unnecessary shortages.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2020.