Edmonton emergency room physician Dr. Louis Francescutti says doctors are encountering drug shortages, including even common drugs like penicillin.
Francescutti, who is currently the president of the Canadian Medical Association, recently wanted to prescribe the liquid form of penicillin to one of his patients in an Edmonton emergency room. One of his colleagues told him they had been out of stock for several weeks.
“We had 52 patients in the waiting room ...and to get frustrated by not having a medicine that last week was there, this week, it's not there, next week maybe, maybe not,” he said.
“And this isn't something that I remember practising medicine 10 years ago."
Alberta Health Services says the penicillin shortage is a Canada-wide issue that isn't limited to this province. Penicillin is still available but "may be in a different form than they are used to," spokesman Kerry Williamson said.
Reporting of drug shortages may soon no longer be voluntary for drug manufacturers, federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Monday.
“What I've indicated now to my colleagues across the country, the other health ministers and to industry is that we're looking now to move to a mandatory drug shortages program.”
While there are penicillin alternatives, Francescutti says the shortage of such a common drug creates problems for doctors and patients, who may face delays at the pharmacy.
"Who knows how many patients have been inadvertently harmed by having to use your second drug of choice,” he said.
A 2012 report recommended that Health Canada set up drug monitoring teams.
Health Canada is holding consultations on the drug shortages over the next six weeks. The government is also reviewing its own drug shortages website.