Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pharma companies pitch drug plan, dodge federal bullet - CTV News

OTTAWA — Pharmaceutical companies in Canada have dodged a bullet by coming up with a plan to deal with shortages of prescription drugs.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq took the pharmaceutical industry to task in August for failing to figure out ways to deal with a growing number of shortages.

She told industry and medical associations that unless they figured out a way to alert doctors to a growing number of shortages by Sept. 30, she would impose a solution.

In letters obtained by The Canadian Press, the companies respond to the threat by agreeing to pool information on shortages and pending shortages, and then post the details "in coming weeks" on two existing public websites.

They also pledged to build a more comprehensive one-stop website that will become a permanent, reliable source of information about drug shortages -- as long as Health Canada helps with funding.

But they stop short of agreeing on ways to actually reduce the shortages.

"As you know, the underlying causes of drug shortages are complex and international in scope," the working group of eight associations says in a letter to the minister, dated Sept. 28.

"Our group has had some discussions on measures that can be taken to alleviate shortages, but certainly more discussion is required."

Pharmacists raised the alarm a year ago, after a survey showed that shortages of drugs were becoming more common.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said they had had trouble tracking down a medication in the previous week. And almost all respondents said they had seen a deterioration in the previous year.


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