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Drugs in short supply include those used to treat leukemia, breast and ovarian cancer and other tumours and sarcomas. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press) (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

New Brunswick physicians may come under increased pressure on how they treat patients if a drug shortage continues much longer, according to a cancer specialist.

Health Canada issued a warning last week that some drugs used to treat cancer, infections and other ailments in hospitals could be in short supply.

The list includes 17 drugs used to treat leukemia, breast and ovarian cancer and other tumors and sarcomas.

Dr. Eshwar Kumar, the chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Cancer Network, said a shortage of drugs will ultimately put pressure on the treating physicians to come up with alternative options in order to give patients the best care.

"It will raise some anxieties. If this continues indefinitely we might have to see how best we can manage," Kumar said.

Despite this, Kumar said up to now, the drug shortages have caused no major impact in New Brunswick.

Health-care professionals have been sharing resources and supplies of various drugs including those used in chemotherapy treatment.

Jeff Morrison, a director for the Canadian Pharmacists Association, said the potential chemotherapy drug shortage is part of an on-going, larger problem in Canada with no real end in sight.

"This particular round of shortages has lasted a lot longer and deeper than in the past," Morrison said.

However, Morrison said he suspects the problem will be resolved within a week or two.

Health Canada warned the country's hospitals that a shortage could be possible because of problems at Ben Venue Laboratories of Bedford, Ohio, which the department calls a large contract manufacturer of "injectable and inhalational sterile drug products."

Health Canada said its recent assessment identified deficiencies in manufacturing at the company's plant. So it said only drugs deemed medically necessary from the plant can be imported.

But the supply of those drugs could be affected by manufacturing problems.