Drug shortages are an ongoing global problem that cannot go ignored. Canadians have been facing shortages of all kinds of prescription drugs, including medications used to treat epilepsy.
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Lives at stake
Sudden discontinuation of epilepsy medication, or suddenly changing epilepsy drugs, can cause breakthrough seizures and life-threatening status epilepticus (prolonged seizures).
Changes in epilepsy medications are normally made slowly over many weeks, to gradually taper off one drug and introduce another. If a drug shortage happens with no warning, people do not have time to make a gradual change in their medication.
This opens the floodgates for many other concerns including:
- injuries and accidents
- loss of employment
- loss of driver’s licence
- financial hardship
- stress on family members and relationships
As an added risk, people may not achieve the same seizure control with different medications or when they resume their regular anti-seizure drug.
The current situation
The current approach to drug shortages in Canada relies on voluntary notification by pharmaceutical companies on a website, drugshortages.ca, with the hope that this will help the health care system react to the shortage.
Information about drug shortages may be posted late or not at all, and notices often sit on the website with little effect because the information does not get out to the doctors, nurses and patients who need to know.
When a shortage happens, people are left scrambling to try and get information and figure out what they should do.
How can Epilepsy Ontario help?
We believe pharmaceutical companies have a moral and ethical responsibility to not only maintain a consistent supply of medication but to notify Canadians (be they patients, pharmacists, physicians nurse practitioners or Health Canada employees) as soon as they become aware of a potential drug shortage. The public deserves to have access to accurate information about the cause and duration of a shortage.
Epilepsy Ontario is here to help you voice these concerns and bring attention to this issue. We strongly encourage the government to review this drug shortage problem. We have written to both the federal and provincial levels of government politicians urging them to take immediate action.
It is unacceptable for Health Canada to have “no authority” over the supplies of medication on the market. The government must examine the underlying factors that cause drug shortages and take action to prevent future shortages.
You can join the fight for consistent and adequate supplies of anti-seizure drugs. Click here to find out how you can support Epilepsy Ontario.
If your pharmacy is unable to fill your prescription, consult your healthcare provider immediately. Do not make any changes to your treatment (i.e. skipping doses, reducing the dose, or discontinuing a drug) on your own. Your physician or nurse practitioner can discuss the potential shortage of a drug with you and develop a treatment plan to safely manage your epilepsy condition.