Three chemotherapy drugs that are rated ‘low’ in profitability for pharmaceutical producers are facing shortages across Canada.
Vinorelbine, which treats lung and breast cancer, Leucovorin, which helps decrease the toxic effects of other cancer drugs, and Etoposide, which treats lung and testicular cancer, have been listed as experiencing “national shortages” on the federal government’s drugs shortage website.
They are three of the 1,848 reported drug shortages in the country and there are 53 anticipated drug shortages that could affect patients across the country, according to the website.
“These drugs are off patent and low profitability for their producers,” said Dr. Gerald Batis, Director of the Segal Cancer Centre at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, on CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
“There seems to be less prioritization in terms of ensuring long term production and provision to Canadians in terms of these drugs,” he said, adding that patients are not facing a shortage “tomorrow” but that efforts have been declining over the past five years to produce them.
Batis said that there are “multiple levels” or organizations monitoring this, including Health Canada, who have put out statements to “reassure all of us they are looking into this.”
Drug shortages have been gaining increasing national attention, as high profile caravans of Americans cross the border into Canada to buy drugs such as insulin, and U.S. President Donald Trump announced his plans to combat drug shortages – but Batis says he is skeptical after reading Trump’s provisions, believing “they won’t come to fruition.”
Batis said that there needs to be a review of how Canada negotiates its drugs from suppliers, including more power for buyer groups and government organizations to ensure that the “necessary provisions…and penalties” are in the contracts with drug producers to avoid short supplies, whether the drug is deemed profitable or not.