When Diana went to fill her daughter’s clobazam prescription last week, she was in for a big surprise when the pharmacy told her it couldn’t supply her with all the medication her daughter needed.
Diana was unaware there was a medication shortage.
With the help of Epilepsy Ontario, Diana was able to get an additional supply of clobazam for her daughter, but it still isn’t enough of the medication to last until the shortage is slated to end in early May.
Since then, Diana has been spending much of her free time phoning pharmacies asking if they have clobazam in stock. This causes another hurdle for Diana because if she has to switch pharmacies, she needs to go back to her daughter’s neurologist and get a new prescription. Once a patient is prescribed clobazam, it can only be switched once to another pharmacy.
Through her efforts, Diana was able to obtain another clobazam supply that her daughter can use until the start of April, but that still isn’t enough medication to last her daughter until the shortage ends.
“It’s very frustrating — I’m very anxious about this,” Diana says, adding she also finds herself checking the online Canadian Drug Shortage Database to see if updates on the shortage are posted.
Diana says the high level of stress she and other people go through during medication shortages could be averted if pharmaceutical companies were mandated by federal law to provide notices of impending drug shortages so people could get their medications ahead of time, or, if needed, ease off one medication and start on a new one.
Diana has a clear picture of what this should look like.
“If there were drug-shortage notices that went out to all pharmacies, patients who have, for example, a prescription for clobazam, could get a phone call or an e-mail notifying them that there is the possibility of a shortage coming up, and an outline would be given for what steps need to be taken,” she says.
Given that pharmacies already have systems in place to notify people when prescriptions are due to be refilled, Diana says she doesn’t see why existing systems can’t be updated to include shortage notices.
Diana is also taking the initiative to write her MP’s office to explain the need for a mandatory drug-shortage database — and she’s encouraging others to follow suit.
Clobazam, which is marketed by several pharmaceutical companies in Canada, is a common medication prescribed to people with seizure disorders. The medication is usually prescribed to work in tandem with other pharmaceuticals. While several companies manufacture the drug, some people with epilepsy can experience changes in their seizure control when they switch brands.
There have been multiple shortages of anti-seizure medications over the past few years, and this is at least the second clobazam shortage in 14 months. In January 2013 Epilepsy Ontario issued a notice that pharmacies had back orders of clobazam.
In September, new guidelines were established that have been developed by government, industry and other stakeholders clearly outlining the expectations, roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders during a medication shortage.
Adhering to these guidelines is important to ensure safety for people with chronic conditions requiring medications, says epilepsy information specialist Suzanne Nurse.
“When it comes to managing drug shortages, early notification from drug manufacturers is key,” she says.
Writer: Deron Hamel
If you have feedback on this story, or have a story of your own that you would like to share, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 23, or e-mail deron(at)axiomnews.ca. You can also leave a comment below.