Drug shortages

The Current Drug Shortages List and the Resolved Shortages List are updated every business day.

The Current Drug Shortages List contains drugs covered by PharmaCare that are in short supply at B.C. community pharmacies. It includes coverage options and replacement (alternative) products PharmaCare is covering during the shortage. The list does not include drugs dispensed in hospitals.

The Resolved Shortages List contains drug shortages that have ended and for which PharmaCare is no longer covering a replacement product.

The Drug Shortage Lists User Guide (PDF, 516KB) gives tips for navigating the files above.

Coverage for replacement drugs

In almost all cases, PharmaCare covers an alternative drug during a shortage. During the shortage, coverage for the alternative drug is the same as it would be for the drug that is in short supply (e.g., the plan it is covered under, whether it needs Special Authority)(For 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.

Coverage for compounded drugs

If an alternative drug isn't available, PharmaCare may cover a compounded drug on a last-resort basis. The Current Drug Shortages List will indicate if a compound is covered and if Special Authority (SA) is required.

In all cases, the prescriber will need to write a prescription for the compound.

Pharmacies: For more information, see the PharmaCare Policy Manual, Section 5.13–Compounded Prescriptions.

If no alternatives are available

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

What is a drug shortage?

A drug shortage happens when a drug manufacturer or distributor cannot supply enough of a drug to fill prescriptions. It 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.

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.

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