TORONTO, April 24, 2012 /CNW/ - Reflecting an editorial published online in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia, (see Drug shortages in anesthesia and perioperative medicine: Canada needs a better supply system) Dr. Rick Chisholm, President of the Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society (CAS), calls for "clear and specific reforms to protect Canada's drug supply from the kind of acute drug shortage we're facing now."
The current drug shortage emergency arose suddenly in February when generic drug manufacturer Sandoz announced that it would be immediately suspending or dramatically reducing supplies of dozens of essential drugs. With no advance warning and no alternative source of supply for many of these drugs, hospitals began to delay elective surgeries or to fall back on other, less-than-ideal drugs, reducing patient safety and quality of care.
Dr. Chisholm says that if the remedies proposed in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia editorial had already been in place, the worst aspects of the current crisis could have been avoided. Two key policy steps called for in the editorial are:
1. Establish a legal requirement for manufacturers to provide adequate notification to federal and provincial authorities of any impending shortage so that stockpiling and contingency planning can occur.
The editorial says that, despite receiving notification of impending FDA action in November, 2011, Sandoz did not notify Canadian doctors of its decision to reduce drug production prior to the actual ramp-down at the Boucherville plant. Even if we consider the time the company needed to evaluate the intensified remediation measures required at the Boucherville plant, the time lag suggests that alternative suppliers could have been notified and drug production could have been augmented at other facilities. Yet, the key stakeholders were not informed of the decision to reduce drug production until February, 2012.
2. Require that the large buying groups that purchase most Canadian drugs no longer be permitted to award "sole-source" contracts for critical off-patent drugs.
In the Sandoz case, the company was effectively the sole-source supplier for dozens of essential medications. With no other approved Canadian supplier - and no notice of the shortage - there was no immediately available solution to the shortage.
"We understand that these sole-source arrangements are an effort to contain costs - and that's important," Dr. Chisholm says, "but so is protecting patients from the risk of avoidable drug shortages, and we believe cost-containment goals can be met without compromising patient safety."
Anesthesiologists have been calling for an "early warning system" to avoid drug shortages for more than a year.
Dr. Chisholm says that the CAS has been pursuing this issue because, "as it stands today, Canadian governments do not know what risks to the drug supply we're facing, the extent of possible shortages, or their health impacts.
"Prompt action of the kind we're calling for in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia editorial can help make sure we're never again 'ambushed' by a drug shortage the way we have been in the first quarter of 2012."
For further information:
Dr. Richard Chisholm, President, Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society c/o Mr. Stan Mandarich, Executive Director, [email protected] or phone 416-480-0602 ext. 14.