Ontario doctors warning of serious, potentially ‘catostrophic’ drug shortage

By Lucas Casaletto

With hospital admissions rapidly rising across the province and reported vaccine shortages in public health units, Ontario’s doctors are sounding the alarm that we may soon face a serious drug deficit.

In a white paper report released Monday, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) – which represents over 43,000 health officials – is recommending that Canada increase domestic production of essential drugs and that all levels of government collaborate to guarantee additional medications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Chronic drug shortages have worsened during the pandemic and may become even more serious if hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID cases in the coming weeks,” said OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill.

“Drug shortages can be catastrophic for patients, causing treatment delays, increased suffering, financial burden and an increased risk of overdose and underdose.”

RELATED: Ontario, other provinces delaying or revisiting vaccine programs as Pfizer slows dose deliveries

The association says the onset raised concerns about securing sufficient supplies of imported active pharmaceutical ingredients from China and India, and that between early March and mid-June of 2020, Ontario doctors and pharmacists were urged to dispense 30 days or less of medication at a time for Ontario Drug Benefit recipients.

Health-care professionals have also seen shortages in antibiotics.

OMA confirms that in August, the country’s doctors and pharmacists wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicating shortages of critical care medications heightened by the pandemic.

RELATED: Province to open pandemic-focused hospital in Vaughan to help manage surge in ICU admissions

Among the recommendations, OMA says the Ministry of Health must collaborate with pharmacy regulators, professional associations, and key stakeholders to change legislation to allow the safe return and distribution of high-demand drugs in hospital settings.

On Monday, the same day its vaccine pilot kicked off, Toronto announced it’s being forced to pause its immunization clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre due to a shortage in Pfizer vaccines.

Pfizer-BioNTech said last week it was cutting back on promised deliveries over the next month as it works to expand production.

“Drug shortages seriously affect patient care and can force health-care providers to make very difficult choices,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette.

“Mitigating and managing these shortages will require bold and innovative solutions and the full partnership, attention and commitment of doctors, pharmacists, private and public drug plans, regulators and governments.”

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