Don’t hoard meds amid virus outbreak, says pharmacists’ group

Canadian Pharmacists Association warns stockpiling medications could trigger drug shortages

Don’t hoard meds amid virus outbreak, says pharmacists’ group

While having an emergency supply of medicine is a prudent practice, Canadians should avoid stockpiling large quantities of medicine, according to the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA).

The industry group issued the warning in a statement last week. It advised Canadians to maintain an on-hand supply of common non-prescription medications for cold, fever, and allergies; those requiring prescription medications, it added, should ensure that their supplies are up to date.

“We do not recommend, however, stockpiling medications in large quantities,” it said. “This is completely unnecessary and could trigger drug shortages.”

Drug shortages have been a recurring point of health-policy conversation in the past few years. There have been several incidents of medicines for specific conditions running out. Health policy experts and researchers have issued warnings on risks to the stability of Canada’s medication supply, including a 2018 paper from the CPhA and another from the CD Howe Institute.

South of the border, American lawmakers have proposed measures that would allow U.S. patients to access cheap generic medications from Canada. Canadian policymakers and industry stakeholders have voiced concerns at this, saying that it could put additional pressure on the nation’s supply chain.

The coronavirus threat could present yet another risk to Canada’s drug supply. Government officials have urged the public to build an emergency stash of necessary items in recent weeks; that includes Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who has suggested that Canadians maintain an inventory of food and medicine in preparation for a potential at-home quarantine.

“It’s completely reasonable for people to check their first aid kit,” Barry Power, a spokesperson for the CPhA, told CTV News. “What we don’t want to see happen is people rushing to the pharmacy looking for a three- or four-month supply.”

While he acknowledged that there haven’t been any drug shortages linked to COVID-19 as yet, Power said there’s a “high likelihood” of such supply glitches occurring in the country.

In late February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed a coronavirus-related shortage of one drug. The manufacturer said the production of a key ingredient had been disrupted amid virus-induced factory shutdowns in China.