Tamoxifen Supply Interruption
Canada is facing a shortage of tamoxifen, a drug that is commonly used for the treatment of breast cancer. Other countries are also currently affected by this shortage.
Tamoxifen is often used for patients with early breast cancer when the treatment goal is to obtain a cure. It is given after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to reduce the risk of breast cancer returning. As adjuvant therapy, patients may take tamoxifen for between 5 and 10 years. Tamoxifen is also approved by Health Canada for the treatment of advanced breast cancer, and may be used for ovarian and endometrial cancers, as well as desmoid tumours, a type of sarcoma.
Tamoxifen is supplied in 2 strengths (10mg and 20mg tablets) and is sold in Canada by 3 manufacturers (Apotex, Teva Canada and AstraZeneca Canada). All 3 are reporting supply shortages.
At this time, the tamoxifen shortage is expected to be over in January 2020. Drug manufacturers report all drug shortages to the Drug Shortages Canada website.
The provincial priority is to minimize the number of patients currently on tamoxifen who experience interruptions in therapy. When there is a limited supply of a drug, pharmacists and physicians will work together to address supply issues, and when appropriate and necessary, identify alternative treatment options.
We are working with the Ministry of Health, Health Canada, and drug manufacturers on obtaining additional supply of tamoxifen to reduce any risk of treatment interruptions.
Unfortunately, drug shortages are a recurring and ongoing national and international issue not only for cancer drugs but for drugs in general. In a time of shortage, patients remain our top priority and we will continue to support hospitals and community pharmacies so that patients can continue to receive safe and effective cancer treatments.
Understandably, patients may be concerned about the supply of tamoxifen and their pharmacist is their best source of information on supply. Patients may receive less than their usual quantity as pharmacies coordinate and share limited supplies. In some cases, patients may need to speak with their oncologist to discuss other treatment options.
Details on all drug updates can be found on www.drugshortagescanada.ca.