2018/19 brought with it a number of issues that had a powerful impact on public health and safety from the opioid overdose crisis, wildfires and significant drug shortages/recalls.
BC Wildfires - State of Emergency
On August 15, 2018 the British Columbia government declared a provincial state of emergency to support the province wide response to the ongoing wildfire situation. This was the second year in a row a provincial state of emergency was declared as a result of wildfires across BC.
— BC Pharmacists (@BCPharmacists) August 2, 2018
A state of emergency applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered through a co-ordinated response to protect the public.
The College launched a new emergency resource page – Accessing Medications You May Need During an Emergency – shortly before the 2018 BC Wildfires that is intended to provide both members of the public and pharmacy professionals with information on preparing for an emergency and on expectations for continuity in care to be provided for any patients displaced by an evacuation.
The College would like to thank Emergency Management BC, the Ministry of Health, and the First Nations Health Authority for their input in developing the new resource.
When the state of emergency was declared in August 2018, the College reached out to pharmacy professionals via email, social media and through our website to remind them of the provisions laid out in Professional Practice Policy 25 – Pharmacy Disaster Preparedness, and to provide them with the appropriate College contact for questions related to continuity of care during an emergency.
The College’s outreach also included providing information to the public on how to access medications in the event that they have been displaced by an evacuation and are in need of an emergency supply of medication, including sharing our Find a Pharmacy tool to locate a pharmacy in the community where they are staying.
For more information on how to prepare, and what to do during an emergency, see: bcpharmacists.org/emergency
EpiPen® auto-injectors have been in short supply since January 2018 with PharmaCare placing a limit for EpiPen products in PharmaNet to two per dispense for PharmaCare-paid claims starting in April 2018. Then in August 2018, Health Canada issued an Interim Order to provide access to a US-approved epinephrine auto-injector.
Update: New shipments of EpiPen 0.3mg & U.S. Auvi-Q 0.3mg & 0.15mg have arrived in Canada to help ease the current #EpiPen shortage. #HealthCanada’s priority is a long-term solution for sustainable, consistent & adequate #autoinjector supply. https://t.co/v6jqzrHxrj #AllergyAware
— GovCanHealth (@GovCanHealth) September 21, 2018
EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® auto-injectors are used to deliver an emergency treatment of adrenaline (epinephrine) to patients who are at risk or have a history of life threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).
In response, the College worked closely with the Ministry of Health to create and distributed a comprehensive resource with advice for affected patients; guidance for pharmacists to provide access to alternate forms of epinephrine; as well as a patient information sheet developed in collaboration with the BC Pharmacy Association.
EPIPEN SHORTAGE UPDATE:
If an EpiPen cannot be obtained, providing ampoules or vials of epinephrine and syringes (with training on preparing the syringe and administration) is an alternative pharmacists can consider.
Learn more https://t.co/jRd6yvpaia #BChealth #patientsafety pic.twitter.com/MID3JNHM9N
— BC Pharmacists (@BCPharmacists) August 4, 2018
Patient Resources on Use and Administration of Other Forms of Epinephrine
The College worked with the BC Pharmacy Association to develop information for patients on how to use other forms of epinephrine in the case of an allergic reaction.
The shortage has since been resolved.
In July of 2018, Health Canada issued a recall for several drugs containing valsartan due to contamination with a potential carcinogen.
Several drugs containing valsartan are being recalled by Health Canada due to contamination with a potential carcinogen.
— BC Pharmacists (@BCPharmacists) July 12, 2018
Drugs containing valsartan are used to treat patients with high blood pressure to prevent heart attacks and stroke as well as patients who have had heart failure or a recent heart attack.
In response, the College distributed multiple announcements and resources outlining the Drug Information Numbers and Lot Numbers of affected products, as well as guidance for pharmacy professionals to provide safe therapeutic alternatives and substitutions.