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‘It could really hurt someone’: Sask. deals with shortage of common antidepressant
Published Tuesday, November 20, 2018 6:36PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 20, 2018 9:43PM CST
Saskatchewan pharmacists and patients are dealing with a nation-wide shortage of a unique yet common antidepressant that thousands use in the province.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health said more than 12,000 people were using Wellbutrin and its generic counterpart bupropion between April and October of this year and confirmed there have been reported shortages of the drugs.
Pharmacist and co-owner of Queen Street Pharmacy Alana Berg said it’s a unique type of antidepressant because it works on dopamine rather than serotonin.
She told CTV News she is down to about 20 pills left of bupropion, which should last a couple of weeks.
“You have to have a bit of faith maybe that things will work out and then try to be proactive,” Berg said.
She said she first ran out of Wellbutrin XL three months ago, which is the extended release form of the drug to be taken once a day. She gave patients Wellbutrin SR instead, the sustained release form to be taken twice a day, but said she heard from some patients they experienced withdrawal side effects.
She said the same drug - called Zyban but used as a smoking cessation aid - is also unavailable and she is unsure when she’ll get more of the drugs.
“It's a big deal for people on an antidepressant to have finally found one that works for them,” Berg said. “There can be withdrawal effects if they just decide not to fill it and then a return to depressive symptoms.”
CTV News spoke with a man who was using Wellbutrin but had to switch to a different drug due to the shortage. He said it took him more than a year to find the right “balance” on Wellbutrin and switched a few weeks ago. CTV News agreed to not use his name.
“There’s no perfect cure so when you find the right balance it’s a good thing because everything is so much easier for you and your life gets changed because of it,” he said.
He said the new drug is working fine, but he is experiencing some side effects from the switch.
“It’s not fair messing with anyone’s medication,” he told CTV over the phone. “Not necessarily for me, but for other people, it could potentially be life-changing. It could really hurt someone.”
A spokesperson with Bausch Health, which manufactures Wellbutrin, wouldn’t say the reason behind the shortage or an exact time when the drug will be replenished.
In a statement to CTV News the spokesperson said the company has begun the shipping process of Wellbutrin XL.
“Canadian wholesalers will send the product to pharmacies seeking additional supply for patients, including those in Saskatchewan, and they will receive it shortly depending on delivery schedules,” it read.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Metro said the shortage of bupropion is due to “a very significant increase in demand caused by recent shortages of other suppliers in the Canadian market.” The company would not elaborate on that or a timeframe for more supply.
“It's hard to get answers,” Berg said. “I phoned our wholesaler this morning and they said their computer shows that they're supposed to get a shipment of one particular brand today, but 54 pharmacies already have claim to it.”
Last month the Canadian Pharmacists Association released a statement saying it’s concerned about the “growing number” of drug shortages in Canada. It called on Health Canada to arrange a national stakeholder meeting to develop clear and long-term solutions to the manufacturing and supply chain disruptions that lead to shortages.