A message to CMPA members about Canada's current drug shortage
Hospitals across Canada are dealing with a number of issues resulting from drug shortages. Physicians may have questions about the medico-legal implications associated with this drug shortage and the importance of addressing the needs of patients.
The CMPA encourages physicians to be aware of their ethical and professional duties to patients. It is important to do what is reasonable in the circumstances, using sound medical judgement and acting in the best interests of patients.
Physicians should work with their hospital administration to determine which medications are available and for how long, when back ordered medications are likely to become available, and what alternatives might be recommended.
It may be necessary for physicians to recommend alternative medications to patients, or to defer treatment, if it is safe to do so. As with all consent discussions, it is important to inform patients of the risks and benefits of an investigation or treatment, and of the difficulties physicians may be facing in accessing medications. Physicians who are considering alternate medications should advise their patients and discuss the risks and benefits of proceeding with the treatment using an alternate medication. Physicians who are recommending deferring treatment should inform patients of the reasons for doing so. If treatment is deferred, patients should be informed of the signs and symptoms for which he/she should seek immediate medical care. All discussions should be documented in the patient medical record.
Health authorities, hospitals, or medical societies may advance guidelines to assist physicians and healthcare providers confronted with challenging decisions. Physicians should work in partnership with authorities to address all facets of clinical care and ensure that the needs of patients are appropriately addressed. If decisions are not clinically advisable from a physician perspective, it may be advisable for physicians to document their concerns in a factual and professional manner, and bring these concerns to the attention of the health authority or hospital leadership. This will facilitate the resolution of the issue in a constructive and timely manner, ensuring that patient well-being remains the sole priority.
The CMPA has published an article about limited access to healthcare resources.