Chemotherapy drug shortage delays treatment north of Toronto

Cancer patients at a hospital north of Toronto have had their treatments delayed because of a drug shortage.

Shortage of fluorouracil after Health Canada shutdown could affect supply in other provinces, company says

A chemotherapy shortage is in part due to one of the suppliers being temporarily shut down by Health Canada.

Cancer patients at a hospital north of Toronto have had their treatments delayed because of a drug shortage.

The 35 patients at Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill, Ont., who were supposed to be receiving the chemotherapy drug  fluorouracil have been told the drug is not available.

In a statement,Mackenzie Health said it is looking for other alternatives, including securing additional supply. "We are concerned for the anxiety this causes patients and will be actively reaching out to those affected to offer them support."

The shortage is in part due to one of the drug suppliers being temporarily shut down by Health Canada.  

Accord Healthcare told CBC News it supplies about 55 per cent of the drug across the country, to provinces including British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario.  

Vice president Michel Charbonneau says it had to stop supplying the medication back in December, after Health Canada reviewed the company's documents reporting four leaky vials shipped from India.

Two other companies, Sandoz and Hospira, supply the drug, but according to, both are back ordered.

The drug is used to treat cancers, including breast, colon, head and neck and some skin malignancies. 

Accord Healthcare says Health Canada contacted the company on Friday and  gave the company permission to release 3,608 vials of the medication.

In a statement to the CBC, Health Canada confirmed the release of the vials earlier today.

"Due to the medical necessity of this medication, and in light of the current shortage situation, Health Canada does not object to the release of these units. The release will be accompanied with an updated risk communication to health care professionals to instruct them to visually inspect the vials prior to use."

Health Canada says it anticipates the recent shipment of the medication "will be sufficient to meet regular demand until additional supply is available."

Charnonneau estimated the emergency shipment will only last about a week and half. The company has an additional 20,000 vials in Canada waiting to be shipped.