An ongoing national drug shortage of an antidepressant could be affecting about 12,000 people in Saskatchewan, according to the Ministry of Health.
The brand name of the drug is Wellbutrin, but its generic name is bupropion. A website for tracking drug shortages across Canada shows higher demand and shipping delays from vendors over the past few months as causes for the shortage.
Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter said drug shortages, in general, are far too common, but this one raises a particular concern.
“Usually what happens is physicians are able to prescribe something very, very similar so they don’t cause that big of an issue,” Reiter said. “I’m told in this case though that there isn’t really a readily available drug that’s similar.”
He said he has asked officials with the ministry to contact Health Canada to see what plans could be made to address the issue.
Kelly Kizloik, a drug information consultant with medSask, said the treatment of depression can be quite complicated with many different options available. This particular drug is unique in the way it works compared with other types of antidepressants.
“So (for) this drug, the type of messengers that it works on in the brain are unique. It does offer some differences in terms of side effects, maybe in terms of how it works and how it works in different patients.”
She added the supply of buproprion is fluctuating for a variety of reasons because there are different formulations and different manufacturers involved.
Kizloik explained pharmacists and healthcare professionals have been managing this shortage for months by talking to patients about different treatment options or by finding places where there is a supply available.
For any patient who is concerned about the impact of possible shortages, she recommended speaking to their particular healthcare provider and pharmacist.