Nova Scotia

N.S. scouts drug substitutes amid shortage fears

Nova Scotia is looking for drug substitutes as it braces for a drug shortage caused by a production scaleback at a Quebec plant.

Nova Scotia is looking for drug substitutes as it braces for a drug shortage caused by a production scaleback at a Quebec plant.

"We're doubly cautious so we don't waste any, so we draw only that much drug what we need to use," said Dr. Romesh Shukla, the chief of anesthesia at the Capital District Health Authority.

Last month, Sandoz Canada's Quebec plant announced it was scaling back production of certain drugs — mostly painkillers, antibiotics and anesthetics — to upgrade operations in the next 18 months.

The announcement came after quality-control assessments by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned the factory fell short of its standards.

A fire in part of the Boucherville, Que., plant also halted production for several days.

"It's one plant that makes all the drugs," said Shukla.

"These are the common drugs like antibiotics, analgesics like morphine, hydromorphone and ketorolac, which is a non-steroid which we use every day."

Maureen MacDonald, the provincial Minister of Health and Wellness, said the province is working on obtaining alternatives for the drugs in short supply.

"We're working really hard to identify other sources for these drugs as well as substitute drugs," she told CBC News.

"We're doing that work in conjunction with Health Canada, the manufacturer and the other provinces."

So far, no surgeries in the province have been cancelled as a result of the drug shortages.

The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia said filling drugstore prescriptions likely wouldn't be a problem because the drugs in question are mostly administered in hospitals and not in community pharmacies.

Shukla said the Capital District Health Authority is able to manage the situation for now and the shortages have not reached a level where surgeries must be cancelled.

"In future we should have a stockpile of some essential drugs, longer than one or two weeks," he said.

"At the moment I think I can reassure the patients there's no adverse affects and they can come without any problems that we'll look after them."

now