March 27th, 2012

Conservatives ignored drug shortage warnings

With hospitals now facing critical shortages, NDP asks why government did not act

OTTAWA

– A string of documents show the Conservative government received a slew of warnings of a looming nation-wide drug shortage but repeatedly dismissed expert advice.

“A survey done by the Canadian Pharmacists’ Association in 2010 showed that 81 per cent of pharmacists had trouble finding medicine to fill prescriptions on their last shift,” said New Democrat Health critic Libby Davies. “Pharmacists get advance notice of shortages only 30 per cent of the time. It’s the recipe for a perfect storm, yet the Conservative decided not to act. As a result, Canadians were put at risk.”

The Canadian Anaesthesiologists Society was concerned enough to send a letter to the Minister of Health detailing a shortage risk for basic anaesthetics.

“While penothol was being discontinued, the fallback, propofol, was at high risk of being in short supply,” said Deputy Health critic Anne Minh-Thu Quach. “Penothol and propofol are to anaesthesia what aspirin and Tylenol are to a headache. Without them, you’re not going to get the job done.”

Despite the warnings, Conservatives refused to act – or even respond the letter from the Anaesthesiologists Society.

“Medical professionals were worried because they knew a drug shortage could have very severe consequences for Canadians. But according to the Anaesthesiologists Society, the Health Minister never even replied to their letter,” said Davies. “New Democrats are calling on the government to finally take responsibility for identifying and managing drug shortages. We must act now to make sure this never happens again.”