The Canadian government has announced it will make it mandatory for pharmaceutical companies to post public notices when drugs are not available.
Currently, posting notices to a website about drug shortages is voluntary. For months, doctors and patients have complained the approach is not working, and people are not able to get the medication they need.
For instance, the former head of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) discovered liquid penicillin was temporarily unavailable in one Edmonton hospital last fall.
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Ambrose said that kind of behaviour "has to stop," and the government will now require companies to post all actual and anticipated shortages, which the public can access on a third-party website.
'Name and shame'
Ambrose said the government will "name and shame" the companies that don't report drug shortages.
In a statement, the head of the CMA said mandatory reporting is "a very welcome step."
“Physicians are gravely concerned with the impacts of drug shortages on their patients,” Dr. Chris Simpson said.
“Persistent shortages in the supply of drugs pose a serious disruption to clinical treatment, increase medical error and put unhelpful pressure on the entire health-care system.”
Shortly after the announcement, the NDP issued a statement saying the Conservatives defeated one of their private member's bills to bring in mandatory disclosure of drug shortages in February 2014.
The Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association said in a statement that while reporting shortages is important, it will continue to work to address their root causes.
Ambrose did caution that the issues causing drug shortages are a global problem, and mandatory posting to a website won't fix that.
The full regulations, including fines for companies that do not comply, will be announced in the coming months. Ambrose said companies will be expected to continue posting information on the current website.