A shortage of prescription drugs in Alberta is leaving pharmacists across the province to search for alternative treatments.

"It's a complex issue. It stems from the manufacturing processes in which some of the manufacturers have had a problem getting raw materials," explained Pat Doyle from Anderson Drug in Drumheller. "As well, some of it is marketing. There has been some pan Canadian pricing in which the generics (brands) have to come in at a certain price across Canada for all their provincial formulas."

Doyle said that this has put a squeeze on generic drug companies to keep tighter drug inventories and that this has contributed to brand-name drugs coming back onto the market at generic drug prices. He says that this is problematic as the issue lies within the back and forth distribution of generic brand drugs and name brand drugs.

"Some of it has been kind of a, we would almost say, dangerous issue. Some of these medications can belong in certain classes and there can be some therapeutic substitutes but in some cases, there really is no substitution," Doyle continued. "So, we would have to try them (the patient) on a new therapy altogether."

Doyle and Anderson Drug employees place medicinal orders every day and he says, a sheet of paper will print from their system explaining that upwards of 30% or more of the order, is unavailable.

"We have to work as a team. The patient is still the centerpiece. The doctor and the pharmacist have to work together to find the right alternative treatment for the patient," he said.

According to Doyle, there is no foreseeable end in sight to these drug shortages but for now, he hopes he can accommodate his patients with the best alternative treatments he can find.

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