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Southern Alberta grapples with prescription medication shortages

Along with a spike in cold and flu numbers across the country, some pharmacists are now experiencing a shortage of some much-needed medication.

“We order $10,000 worth of medication (and) we may only receive $3,000 worth,” said Charmish San Ghvi, a pharmacist at Medicine Shoppe pharmacy in Lethbridge.

Ghvi says many medicines that are high in demand are in short supply.

The list of medications is thousands long, but it includes prescription type medication like Tylenol 4, Ozempic, Nitro spray, which helps relieve chest pain, as well as Amoxicillin, also known as banana medicine for children.

Healthcare teams are all working together to try to help their patients.

“We hear from and talk to doctors hundreds of times per day,” Ghvi explained. “We also see if we can help other pharmacies that may ask us for medication. We usually have one supplier that we prefer first, we call them, they don’t have it, so we phone a different supplier, they don’t have it, so we try to see other pharmacies and borrow to try to help other clients, but most of the time, that is not the case.”

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Bernadine Wojtowicz, the associate dean of nursing at the University of Lethbridge, explains that not all hope is lost.

“Most often what you’ll see is that one drug is used to substitute for another drug of similar nature.

“One blood pressure medication may be substituted for another blood pressure medication.”

“Our bodies are not the same and so each medication affects each individual differently and some individuals may be sensitive to some of the components that also make up that medication. So, if we find the one that works, and then we have to substitute it for a different one, there may actually be different side effects or different effects on the intended purpose.”

There are a wide variety of medication options, but there is what seems to be a trend forming, according to Ghvi.

“There were 9,000 prescription medications and over 3,000 medications over the counter that are available and or approved by Health Canada, of which last year the report was that 3,000 that were short, and, I assume, we’re waiting for the numbers this year, but it would probably be the same or worse.”

Health-care officials and care teams urge the public to trust them and to continue communicating with them to ensure proper healthcare is provided and to not stop taking medication unless your health-care team directs you to do so.

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