Many people are concerned about the possibility of drug shortages as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian Epilepsy Alliance and its partners are monitoring the drug shortage database closely to identify any potential concerns.

An update on the status of procedures in place to help prevent shortages and how to respond if they should occur.
Currently, there are no identified shortages, manufacturers have assured the Canadian League Against Epilepsy and the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance that the drug supply will not be interrupted.

30-Day Refills

Pharmacies have begun limiting medication refills to 30-days. This is being done to help PREVENT shortages from occurring. By making sure that people aren’t getting refills that are larger than what they really need, 30-day refills help make sure that everyone can continue getting their medication without any problems and prevents stockpiling that might accidentally cause a shortage.

The Drug Shortage Database

The drug shortage database (https://www.drugshortagescanada.ca/) is a helpful tool for monitoring the drug supply. While drugs can appear on the database for many reasons and simply because a drug is listed does not mean it is unavailable. Some database listings are for only a very short period of time; others can be for a long-time, but only affect one particular supplier or manufacturer. In fact, over the last few years, there have been about 30 epilepsy drugs listed on the database at any time, but in some cases, there may be other manufacturers that produce the same brand which is available to patients.

The Canadian League Against Epilepsy and the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance are monitoring for indicators of drug shortages, however, the points listed below may help you determine if the drug is simply out of stock at the actual pharmacy or a true Canadian shortage.

A “distributer” is the supplier to the pharmacy and the distributor receives the medications from the manufacturers of the medications. Typically, the pharmacy keeps drugs in stock, however, on occasion, they may give you a partial refill until they get the drug from the distributor. If the distributor does not have the medication, they will contact the manufacturer right away.

Some key points to ask your pharmacist when requesting a refill or getting a prescription of an epilepsy medication

  • When you call or visit the pharmacy ask the pharmacist if you can get a 30-day refill or partial refill (meaning a smaller than your normal 30-day supply)
  • If you can’t get a 30-day refill, check with the pharmacist and ask if they will be contacting the distributor to see if they have it in stock
  • Ask the pharmacist how long it will take to notify you of the current status of the drug you need
  • Ask if it is a Nation-wide drug shortage or simply out of stock from either the pharmacy or the distributer
  • If you determine that the shortage is a manufacturing issue then contact your attending physician immediately for advice
  • On occasion, you may receive a brand name rather than a generic of the same medication. Usually, your pharmacist will check with the prescribing physician to verify that the medication they will be giving you is acceptable
  • Allow ample time for refills of your medication in case there is a slight delay in getting the medication. Usually, a two-week period is sufficient

 It is Important to Remember:

You can’t stop these medications abruptly, it is advised that if you have any questions or concerns about your medication, please contact your attending physician. You may also call your local epilepsy agency for help and assistance at 1-866-EPILEPSY.

Approved by:  The Canadian League Against Epilepsy