Policy changes to protect drug supply

“Policies to avoid drug shortages need to be implemented quickly and are intended as a temporary but important measure,” says one pharmacist.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed our daily lives. Pharmacists on the front lines continue to provide Canadians with essential health services.

It is clear that the drug supply must be carefully managed to avoid national drug shortages. While patients do not currently have to worry about access to their medications, pharmacists will now only be able to fill a 30-day supply, in accordance with guidelines established by the Ministry of Health. This measure is designed to ensure that all patients in the country will have access to life-saving medicines.

Disruption in the supply of drugs, including allocated medications

Although pharmacists guarantee that they will be able to order the necessary medications under most circumstances, pharmaceutical suppliers may have imposed restrictions on the amount of drugs they can receive. These are called allocated medications.

In the past, pharmacists could order and receive 12 bottles of a drug. Today, they can only receive a package of two bottles. So if a patient gets a three-month supply of their medication, it could mean that another patient might not receive any medication at all.
A 30-day supply limit guideline is being implemented in pharmacies across Canada to ensure that life-saving medications such as inhalers, blood pressure medications and insulin are available to all patients equally.

Increased dispensing fees, services and costs

Pharmacists are aware that the 30-day limit means that some patients pay more frequent prescription fees. When some patients take multiple medications, costs can add up very quickly. Pharmacists understand that the financial burden can be difficult for many patients.

Policies to avoid drug shortages need to be implemented quickly and are intended as a temporary but important measure.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association has worked closely with provincial governments and insurers to address the additional costs to patients. Governments are working with manufacturers to address ongoing drug shortages and federal legislation is being adjusted in response to the pandemic.

Pharmacists’ dispensing fees are professional service fees: each prescription is checked to ensure that the dose is correct, side effects are monitored and there is an adequate supply for all patients. Since pharmacies provide an essential service, they must remain open, so the dispensing fee helps cover operating costs such as staff augmentation, cleaning supplies and protective barrier installations.