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Health Canada warns of critical shortage of recalled drug

Yesterday, Health Canada issued a release advising of the shortage. The agency advised Pfizer Canada notified them of the shortage on Jun. 14. According to the drug manufacturer, two batches of injectable sodium bicarbonate were recalled due to possible contamination. Although the risk of contamination to patients is low, the withdrawal of the drug from the market exacerbated the global shortage of the drug that began last month as a result of manufacturing delays.

READ ALSO: Hospitals in U.S. frantic over shortage of sodium bicarbonate

Injectable sodium bicarbonate is used to treat the build-up of acid in the blood in critically ill patients. It is used in open heart surgery, organ failure and in some types of chemotherapy. The drug is also used as an anecdote to some poisons.

The province of Alberta has been especially hard hit. When Alberta Health Services (AHS) first learned of the shortage due to manufacturing delays, the province had a six to seven week supply of the drug. After the recall, the amount of injectable sodium bicarbonate the AHS has will last less than a week.

Maurice Chies, VP of clinical support services, said the less than a week estimate is a worst case scenario. AHS is working on other strategies including looking for other sources and finding substitute drugs.

Yesterday, after Health Canada’s announcement Alberta Health Services issued its own statement. In the release, Dr. Francois Belanger, vice president of Quality and Chief Medical Officer, said AHS will do everything possible to minimize the effect the drug shortage has on patients and they are considering all options to ensure patients receive the best medical care possible.

AHS has put the following protocols in place. Use of injectable sodium bicarbonate will only be used in the most critical cases and approval must be obtained before it can be used. All cases will be ranked according to priority and alternative treatment will be considered. AHS will also work with Health Canada to search for alternative sources where it is possible to do so. And AHS will work with doctors and clinicians, providing them with the necessary information including options for alternatives for the use of injectable sodium bicarbonate.

AHS is hoping their current stock of the drug will last until at least the middle of July when it is expected more of the drug can be obtained.

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