Canadian Epilepsy Alliance welcomes drug shortages announcement

drug iconVancouver, February 10th 2015- Canadian Epilepsy Alliance members joined Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose today as the Minister announced that Canadian pharmaceutical manufacturers will now be required to provide notice of shortages of their drugs. Currently the drug shortage notification is voluntary.

“This is a major step forward for people living with epilepsy, and other diseases and disorders who require ongoing access to their medications,” said Deirdre Floyd, President of the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance. “It’s terrifying when someone living with seizures goes to the pharmacy to refill their prescription only to find out there is a shortage. It has happened too often in recent years to too many people who can’t miss their medication, and hopefully this will help to address shortages in the future.”

“On behalf of the 300,000 people across Canada living with epilepsy, I want to thank Minister Ambrose for implementing this change to the Federal health regulations. I also wish to thank the Members of Parliament, from every party, who have supported past efforts to ensure the safety of people who require ongoing medications.”

“Today’s announcement won’t end drug shortages,” continued Floyd. “That will require further efforts on the part of government and industry to react when a shortage is anticipated. What today’s announcement does mean is that individuals and families have a real opportunity to prepare in times of anticipated crisis.”

Minister Ambrose’s announcement comes after years of work on the part of the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance and other organizations, raising the issue of drug shortages with Federal regulators and Parliamentarians. The voluntary notification system, where manufacturers may provide information on an industry administered website, has often seen shortages not reported until patients discover the shortage on their own.

This is especially dangerous for individuals living with epilepsy where an interruption in their medication can result in serious adverse effects or even death. It is hoped that with mandatory notification, individuals can work with their physicians and pharmacists to ensure an adequate supply of the medication they require.

Nathalie Jette, President of the Canadian League Against Epilepsy, was also encouraged by the announcement and congratulated members of the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance for their efforts in bringing this important healthcare issue to government. “Mandatory reporting of drug shortages is critical for those with epilepsy as it is unsafe to stop antiseizure medications abruptly. This new policy will enhance the likelihood of ongoing safe care for those with epilepsy who already have to deal with so much uncertainty related to their conditions.”

Said Floyd, “This is an important decision for Canada’s epilepsy community.”