Monday, August 19, 2013

Local hospitals ready for potential drug shortage

With another potential injection drug shortage looming, the Brant Community Healthcare System was out in front of the issue this week reassuring the community that plans are in place to avoid any impacts on patients in the area.

Sandoz Canada Inc. has advised health-care facilities and professionals of shortages in a variety of medications it manufactures for patients across Canada. The last time it ran short in the spring of 2012, hospitals were left scrambling to ensure they had the medications on hand for critical care and scheduled surgeries.

This time around, thanks to the lessons from 2012, a plan is in place and patients needing the medications at the Brantford General Hospital or Willett in Paris won't be affected, explained BCHS spokesperson Sarah McVanel.

"The good news out of everything that happened in 2012 is that we didn't have a single service disruption. Alternate medications were found by physicians and pharmacists working together," she said.

"There was a lot learned during that process starting with the fact that we need to have a very close partnership in place to talk about the best alternatives and understand what's in our inventory."
The Sandoz shortage has a particularly local affect with three drugs - pain medications Fentanyl and Hydromorphone, along with Lorazepam, which is used to assist with intubations and as a seizure medication. A drug-shortage website indicates the next batches of the drugs would be available in September through December, depending on the specific one.

"To reassure the community, we are on our summertime slowdown where we don't see as high a volume of patients and our critical-care unit isn't full," McVanel said. "In addition, for all the medications that Sandoz has reported a shortage on, most have an alternate supplier. We may need to pay a little more for it, but patients' care is our top priority....

"All three drugs have alternates, so we can manage pain and induce without risk... We're not at the point of a shortage (locally) yet."

McVanel said Sandoz has not offered an explanation to the Ontario Ministry of Health as to why there is a shortage of these and other medications it produces.

The BCHS will continue to monitor its inventory in the coming months and, if needed, kick into place the protocols and procedures where it works with other facilities in the region's Local Health Integration Network to coordinate supply levels and match them to need.

For now, the healthcare system is simply advising its patients that if they do hear or see more coverage of drug shortages from Sandoz, the BCHS has a plan in place to deal with it.

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