Health authorities keeping eye on supply of pain medications

Michele Young / Kamloops Daily News
March 7, 2012 01:00 AM

Interior Health is keeping a close watch on its intravenous pain medications usually used for surgery and cancer patients due to a slowdown in production by the manufacturer.

Interior Health chief executive officer Dr. Robert Halpenny said Wednesday the shortage is impacting all of Canada, as manufacturer Sandoz provides the drugs for most of the country's hospitals.

So while the federal and provincial governments are looking at finding other sources for the regularly used drugs like morphine, hydromorphone and fentanyl, the health authorities are monitoring and sharing information about their own supplies, he said.

"We noticed it a week ago. What we did was to start to monitor the drugs and medications they supply to every IHA hospital and shared that with a central committee for B.C. to know where we stood," he said.

"This is obviously a Canadawide issue."

Halpenny said there haven't been any patients affected yet, but the shortage could result in elective surgeries being postponed.

"We're trying to make sure we're prepared for the potential the supply might not meet the demand," he said.

"We're working on the supply side locally, so we move medications among hospitals as needed. And there's an agreement among health authorities to share as well."

The drug supplies at every hospital and pharmacy are being monitored daily and previous hospital records are being consulted to track history of quantities used, he said.

"We want to inform the public that when the supplies do get low, we would postpone elective surgeries so we could maintain a level of medications to support emergency surgeries, cancers, etc.," Halpenny said.

Sandoz has indicated the shortage could last as long as into 2013, so the monitoring will have to be done for a long time, he said.

"We're working with Health Canada and other provinces to procure other suppliers. It will take time to do that, because it's very specific narcotics," he said.

"We will most likely always have a supply, and we would always want to make sure to have an emergency supply. If we get to the point of only having emergency supplies, we'd go to the other health authorities."

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