Drug Shortages

Both lists 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.


Flooding news: expanded pharmacist authority to adapt prescriptions during the COVID-19 still applies. See College of Pharmacists of BC’s Amendments To PPP-58 Medication Management. Also see Health Canada's temporary, Requirements for the movement of controlled substances in flood stricken areas in British Columbia (PDF).

Smaller dispenses and emergency supplies during states of emergency

Posted November 17, 2021

Community pharmacies may dispense smaller quantities, e.g. 30 days’ supply, to mitigate drug shortages during current flooding, evacuations, and highway closures in B.C. Pharmacies should use their judgement to assess inventory and patient need.

PharmaCare policy is that fills should be up to the maximum days’ supply wherever possible. If this is not possible given the pharmacy’s on-hand supply, the pharmacy may fill an amount less than the maximum days’ supply indicated in PharmaNet or on the written prescription. If smaller dispenses are required for supply management, additional dispensing fees may be claimed for subsequent dispenses to complete the fill.

This guidance will be in place until Dec. 1, 2021.

Emergency supplies

Travelers stranded due to heavy rainfall may need emergency prescription medication fills. Under the College of Pharmacists of BC’s Emergency Supply for Continuity of Care policy, a pharmacist may use their professional judgement to determine if they can safely provide someone with an emergency supply. For more information, visit the College’s web page, Heavy Rain Causes Floods And Landslides Across BC – Accessing Medications And Providing Continuity Of Care.  

For PharmaNet claims entry instructions for emergency supplies and extension of Special Authority coverage, see Patient Care During States of Emergency and Evacuation.

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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