As people stock up on groceries, toilet paper and cleaning supplies (despite being told not to) some are wondering if the hoarding mentality should apply to medication.
According to the Canadian Pharmacist Association (CPhA), pharmacists are becoming “increasingly mindful about the need to carefully manage our drug supply to weather” the long term impacts of the pandemic.
While there is no known shortage in Canada as of yet, patients stockpiling could exacerbate this problem.
In a statement, the CPhA said pharmacists across Canada are urging Canadians not to stockpile medication or request early refills unless absolutely necessary.
“These actions could create unintended drug shortages and put other patients’ health at risk,” reads the statement, adding that pharmacies are expected to remain open during the pandemic and they need to be able to “allocate medication equitably to all patients.”
Harj Samra, pharmacist and co-founder of PocketPills, an online pharmacy, says he expects a shortage of drugs to occur due to the fact that 80 per cent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) come from China.
“That’s a huge chunk of the actual ingredients that get made into tablets,” he says. “Canada and the U.S. have been getting their active ingredients from the European Union, we take a very small amount from China but as the rest of the world looks for outside sources, we believe that shortage is inevitable.”
Now, pharmacists across the country have been told to restrict prescriptions to a 30-day supply due to pandemic disrupting supply lines and threatening shortages of a variety of drugs.
Hans Bawa, owner of Fort Royal Pharmacy in Victoria, says she hasn’t noticed an uptick in people buying more medication than usual but that could be due to the one per customer buying limit the pharmacy has implemented.
CPhA recommends Canadians have non-prescription medication for colds, fever and allergies on hand but says stockpiling medication in large quantities is “completely unnecessary.”
Samra says that if a drug shortage did come into effect for pharmacists, they are able to intervene and substitute medication for a different brand of drug to ensure someone does not go with out medication.
“We have that ability to make those changes and if somebody was out of a particular medication, we can get something within the same class that has the same dose and change it over,” he says.
— With files from Ashley Wadhwani