PharmaCare Drug Shortage Information

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What is a drug shortage?

A drug shortage happens when demand exceeds supply (that is, when a drug manufacturer or distributor cannot supply enough of a drug to fill prescriptions).

A drug shortage can result from various supply and demand causes, including manufacturing issues, distribution issues (including importation), and product discontinuations.

Shortages happen fairly regularly. Most drug shortages are temporary but permanent shortages may occur when a drug is discontinued.

How the information on this page can help

The Current Drug Shortages List (below) gives health professionals and the public up-to-date information about PharmaCare-covered drugs that are in short supply at B.C. community pharmacies. The list does not include shortages of drugs PharmaCare does not cover or drugs dispensed in hospitals.

The list includes the coverage options that PharmaCare has approved to address the shortage, including any replacement (alternate) product that PharmaCare is covering during the shortage.

Drug Shortage Lists

Information in the Current Drug Shortages list is updated each business day. When you open the Excel file, the list is sorted according to the most recent line (row) that has been entered or updated. You can chose to change the order by clicking the sort button in the top right-hand of each column heading.

Notes: Opening, displaying and closing the latest version of the spreadsheets

  • The Excel files may take a few minutes to download.
  • Some Web browsers store images of Web pages and online files so they can be re-displayed quickly. However, this can mean that the page or file displayed is not the most recent version on our website. To confirm that you have the latest version of our drug shortage spreadsheets, check the “Last Updated” date in row 2 of the spreadsheet. The date should be for the previous business day.

    If it’s an older version, you will have to clear your browser’s stored files (its cache) to force the browser to fetch the latest version from our website. Please consult your browser Help files for assistance.

    Tip: You can force your browser to check for newer versions of stored pages every time you visit the webpage by changing the browsing history settings. Please consult your browser Help files for assistance.
  • When closing a drug shortages list spreadsheet, you may be asked whether you want to save the changes to your computer. Please click NO.

Current Drug Shortages List (Excel file, updated every business day)

Lists each PharmaCare-covered drug that is currently unavailable in British Columbia (including recently discontinued drugs) and the coverage option PharmaCare has approved. 

The drug listings are sorted by “Last Updated on” (Column J); the most recent updates are at the top of the list. You can re-sort the list using any column.

When a shortage ends, the information is removed from the Current Drug Shortage List and the alternative product(s) returns to its former benefit status.

>> See below for information on Coverage options during a shortage.

Resolved Drug Shortages List (Excel file, updated every business day)

Lists drug shortages that have ended and for which PharmaCare is no longer covering a replacement product.

The drug listings are sorted by “Last Updated on” (Column J); the most recent updates are at the top of the list. You can re-sort the list using any column.

User Guide (PDF, 516KB)
Mar 19, 2015

Provides column descriptions, definitions, and tips for finding information quickly in the files above.

Coverage options during a shortage

When a shortage of a PharmaCare-covered drug is reported, PharmaCare verifies the shortage with the suppliers. Once the shortage is confirmed, PharmaCare reviews coverage options and reports the coverage decision in the Current Drug Shortage List.

Option 1: Coverage for a commercially available replacement drug

In almost all cases, PharmaCare covers an alternate drug during a shortage. The Current Drug Shortages List gives details on the alternate drug. During the shortage, coverage for the alternate drug is the same as it would be for the drug that is in short supply. (TIP: For information on PharmaCare coverage of a specific drug, use the Formulary Search.)

Note: In many cases, PharmaCare already covers several versions of a drug. If one supplier’s version runs short, see Low Cost Alternative Program listings for other versions that PharmaCare already covers.

Option 2: Coverage for a compounded drug

If there is no available alternate drug, PharmaCare may cover a compounded (made-to-order) drug on a last-resort basis. The Current Drug Shortages List will indicate if compounding is covered and whether or not PharmaCare Special Authority (SA) is required.

In all cases, the prescriber will need to write a prescription for the compound. If SA approval is needed, the prescriber will also need to submit a request for PharmaCare Special Authority approval.

Pharmacies: For more information, see the PharmaCare Policy Manual, Section 5.13—Compounded Prescriptions (PDF, 422KB).

Option 3: No alternate available

If there is no alternate drug available and compounding is not covered, the Current Drug Shortages List indicates that patients and their health care providers may need to discuss a therapeutic alternative.

Reporting a drug shortage

Pharmacists—Are you aware of a drug shortage that is not included in the Current Drug Shortages list? If you have confirmed the shortage with your wholesaler, please contact the PharmaNet HelpDesk.

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