Manitoba hit by nationwide drug shortages, but local pharmacists say there are other options
Current shortages will resolve, but 'the question is what's the next one around the corner': pharmacist
Manitobans may have noticed empty shelves at their local pharmacies as a nationwide shortage of cold and flu products hits the province.
Timothy Smith, an advisor with Pharmacists Manitoba, says children's over-the-counter medications are finally returning to shelves, but now cold and flu products for adults are in short supply, especially cough suppressants.
The shortages come during peak respiratory illness season where a mix of COVID-19, influenza, and RSV have been in circulation.
Smith called the drug supply shortages "pretty serious" and says they have been evident across "all brands, all companies in many cases."
He asked people not to stockpile medication during this time.
"When we have limited stock on our shelves, it's important that we all do our social responsibility and collaborate together so that those that have the highest need have what they need to get through those circumstances," he told CBC.
Health Canada told CBC News on Thursday it is "aware of elevated demand and supply constraints of over-the-counter adult analgesics" — namely ibuprofen, acetaminophen and combination products — and is working to address them.
Robyn Zelinsky, operations manager at RX Pharmacy and Compounded Products on Henderson Highway, says compounding pharmacies may be the solution Manitobans are looking for, as they are able to do what a pharmacy can do — and more.
"We have all the active ingredients," she told host Marcy Markusa during an interview with CBC's Information Radio. "And we're able to make them from scratch."
A shortage of ready-made medications is not the same as a shortage of the individual ingredients that go into compounded medications, she said.
"One of the biggest challenges that we do have is letting the public know… we're here, we have these items available for them — they just have to come and pick them up."
Her compounding pharmacy has enough product for thousands of bottles of medications that are currently in short supply, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, she said.
"If we don't have it, we can usually make it the same day or the next," she said, but they don't make eye drops or injectable medications.
The current shortage has "definitely changed things up" for her compounding pharmacy and has made them very busy, Zelinsky said.
Smith said drug shortages in Canada are not new but have increased over the past decade. Part of the problem is a limited amount of domestic manufacturing in the country, he said.
This particular shortage will resolve, but "the question is what's the next one around the corner, because there will be one," he said.
"I think we really need to take that step back and have a more holistic look at why these issues are happening, why Canada seems to be facing them more severely than perhaps some other jurisdictions, and what we can do to future."
'Please stay home if you're sick'
The nationwide shortages seemed to hit Manitoba a bit later than more populated provinces such as Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, said Smith.
But he has noticed Manitobans rushing out to stockpile certain medications once news of shortages hit headlines.
"That's why it's really important for everyone to kind of take a step back and make sure they're only looking for what they actually need," Smith said.
He said pharmacists can usually suggest other ways to cope with symptoms than over-the-counter drugs, such as humidifiers, staying hydrated, drinking tea with honey and using saline nose sprays.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Smith said, advising Manitobans to make sure they are up to date on their COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations, wash their hands frequently, wear a mask in high-risk situations and manage their contacts.
"And of course, please, please, please stay home if you're sick."
With files from Emily Brass and Laurie Hoogstraten