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'Recipe for disaster': Pharmacist warns of drug shortages on Vancouver Island

A South Island pharmacist is warning residents that drug shortages could unexpectedly occur at their local pharmacies.

Yoshi Ito, a pharmacist at the Peoples Pharmacy in Colwood, B.C., says a range of medications can be struck with shortages with little warning, especially cold, flu, and allergy medication during the summer.

"I'd say up to 10 per cent of our shelves go in and out of shortages without warning," said Ito.

"We don't know when it's coming back. [Distributors] don't give us a warning nor a timeline of how long [the shortage] is," he said. "So we're scrambling to find substitutes, changing to a different class of medication altogether, and we have to contact a doctor for that, and that's a problem itself."

Ito urges people who have prescriptions to make sure they have a stock of a least a month or two in case an unexpected shortage occurs.

He also encourages other pharmacists to warn their customers of potential supply disruptions.


Ito says he graduated from pharmacy school in 2015, and worked as a pharmacy assistant for about five years before that.

During that time it was "really rare" to have a drug shortage, he says, and pharmacies would always be able to find an alternative if a shortage occurred.

"As the years go by – today, it's so common. And it's just getting worse and worse and we don't know why," he said.

Medication shortages are appearing across Canada, with pharmacies in Ontario reporting similar problems.

Ito thinks B.C.'s doctor shortage may be contributing to the pressure on medication supplies. With customers unable to book doctor appointments, sometimes they reach for drugs that can help with their symptoms, he said.

The pharmacist says he also works closely with a nearby Rexall and London Drugs to try to make sure they collectively have stocks of what people need.

He noted that last week he spoke with a man who had called seven different pharmacies looking for an anti-depressant that's also facing a shortage, after trying to book a doctor's appointment for a week.

"At the end of the day I was able to spare him a month," said Ito. "I said, 'Listen, this is what we have in stock. Come back in a month and see what the situation is.'"

While pharmacists are trying their best to keep shelves stocked, Ito says the ongoing shortages are a "recipe for disaster." Top Stories

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