Industry pre-empted regulatory action by agreeing to pool information on drugs in short supply and make it available publicly. Aparna Krishnan, senior research analyst, IHS Global Insight, said pooling information deemed trade sensitive overcomes a main “point of contention” but more is needed.
“The response from the industry has stopped short of providing answers to reduce the number of drug shortages in the country. Pharma firms have contended that most of the underlying causes of this issue have been international”, Krishnan said.
Until these concerns are addressed Krishnan thinks consumer confidence in drug supply will stay low. Over the next few weeks the Canadian government is expected to push for stronger actions, Krishnan said, and pharma manufacturers are “under pressure to find tangible ways to help reduce shortages”.
In a letter to Leona Aglukkaq, the Canadian health minister, pharmaceutical and generic firms said work on collecting data will begin this month. Companies will share the names and dosage forms of drugs in short supply, as well as the reason for the problem and when a resolution is expected.
The Canadian pharma industry proposes posting data on the Saskatchewan Drug Information Service and Vendredi.PM. Industry is also planning a national, “one-stop-shop” monitoring platform but needs more time to develop the system.
“Over the next several months [we] will continue to work [on the] system. It is our intention that a more detailed plan for a national reporting system can be fleshed out by early 2012”, manufacturers told Aglukkaq.
Provision of funding and resources for the system is yet to be resolved. The manufacturers want to discuss this “with Health Canada in greater detail at some point in the near future”. Krishnan said Health Canada has been asked to fund the drug-shortage website.
In December 2010 the Canadian Pharmacists Association highlighted the drug shortage problem after surveying its members. More than four-fifths of respondents said they struggled to find drugs to fill a prescription during their last shift. In Ontario, the figure rose to 98 per cent.
A lack of advanced warning adds to the problem. Almost two-thirds of pharmacists said they never or only infrequently receive advanced notice of shortages. In August Health Canada gave pharmacists some notice by releasing a list of drug shortages related to problems at Ben Venue Laboratories.
The list prompted Aglukkaq to write a letter to Canadian drug manufacturers setting a September 30 deadline for a response. On September 28, industry sent a letter offering to share information on drug shortages.