Women's College Research Institute

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Clinicians must be aware of drug shortages

November 2012

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of drugs that are in short supply has tripled. By last fall, in the US alone, the FDA included 220 drugs on the list.

Dr. Paula RochonCanadians once assumed that prescription drug shortages were an issue reserved for developing countries. No longer. Around the world, many medications that have become a first line of defense for a wide variety of ailments are not always available.  In a commentary published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. Paula Rochon, vice-president of research, Women’s College Hospital discusses the implications of drug shortages.

“Doctors need to ensure they’re informed as this issue grows,” says Rochon. “If the drug they would normally have prescribed is in short supply or unavailable, they need to become more attuned to medical therapies that may be good alternatives, and educate themselves about side effects and interactions.”

Rochon also urges clinicians to take advantage of the expertise of other allied health professionals, particularly pharmacists, and work collaboratively to identify the best alternative treatment options.

“When you are aware of the issue, you are proactive and you can manage through situations so they don’t become a problem,” says Rochon.

That’s not to say that the responsibility is entirely on physicians though. Institutions should create policies to help better manage the allocation of drugs on the short supply list.

“Everyone involved in the health-care system, from policy-makers to hospital leaders to family doctors, needs to be actively engaged in creating strategies to address this growing issue.”

More on Dr. Paula Rochon’s Impact + Innovation

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