Pharmacists say they are having trouble getting hold of an abortion pill due to a supply shortage, days after the province's announcement that it will be covered under the Quebec health plan as of Friday.

The Quebec government announced Wednesday that the pill, designed to terminate a pregnancy under nine weeks, would be available for free starting Dec. 15.

When pharmacists tried to stock up on short notice, they found that the drug, Mifegymiso, wasn't readily available.

"Because many pharmacies were trying to do this at the same time, there was a stock shortage at the wholesaler," said Jean Thiffault, president of the Quebec pharmacists' association.

Thiffault highlighted that the situation is temporary and that women trying to get access to the pill should be able to.

He says if a pharmacist can't get Mifegymiso, they will direct the client elsewhere.

"If, unfortunately, none of the pharmacist's colleagues in the area have the product, then they can refer someone to a medial clinic where doctors have the ability to prescribe it," said Thiffault.

He added that the government program to offer the pill for free was launched quickly and that pharmacists were all scrambling around the same time to get it on the shelves.

How it works

In order to gain access to Mifegymiso, a woman will have to consult a doctor, and get an ultrasound. She can then self-administer the drug at home.

The government estimates that the arrival of the abortion pill in Quebec will not cost taxpayers anything, since it anticipates a reduction in the number of surgical abortions.

Health Canada approved Mifegymiso in 2015, and Canadian doctors were able to start prescribing it on July 1, 2016. 

The cost of the pill is covered in a number of other provinces, including Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick.

With files from Radio-Canada's Cathy Senay, Fanny Samson, The Canadian Press