Okanagan pharmacies rationing how much medication they’re dispensing

Click to play video: 'Okanagan residents being told panic buying not necessary, hurting a lot of people'
Okanagan residents being told panic buying not necessary, hurting a lot of people
WATCH: Consumers being urged to put on the breaks on the panic purchasing because as Klaudia Van Emmerik reports, there's no need for it. – Nov 17, 2021

With many major highways from B.C.’s Interior still cut off from the Lower Mainland by flooding and landslides, Okanagan pharmacies have been rationing how much medication they’re dispensing at once in an effort to prevent running out.

That means, for example, that instead of giving a patient three months’ worth of medication at once, pharmacies might only be able to offer patients a one-month supply.

However, two pharmacies Global Okanagan spoke to on Friday were expecting to be resupplied by air before the situation becomes critical.

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“We would dissuade people from trying to panic hoard their medications. That is definitely not a necessity right now. There is medications, it is just how quick we can get [it],” Brandon Shul, a pharmacy manager at Dyck’s Pharmacists in Kelowna, said.
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Shul said the problem is that for pharmacies throughout B.C., most medications are distributed out of warehouses based in the Lower Mainland.

Many pharmacies are used to getting daily or near-daily deliveries by truck and have not been receiving them.

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“There is some stuff that we are running low on…we can kind of limit how much we are able to provide to each person to maintain that there is some for everybody to have access to,” Shul said.

“I think the bigger issue…[is] for patients that get kind of unique or exotic medications that are more ordered on a one-off basis.”

So far, Shul said, his pharmacy has not had to turn any customers away.

“Actually, a lot of the local pharmacies are really good, they work together. It is part of the College of Pharmacists’ mandate that you try and help each other out with inventory so there has been an increase in volume of phone calls between pharmacies trying to transfer stock to each other to make sure that the patients are looked after,” Shul said.

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Shul said a major drug supplier is trying to resupply pharmacies in bigger communities by air and has asked the businesses to order what they need in the short term.

The pharmacist expects that resupply to come before the store starts to run out of medication.

Click to play video: 'Okanagan shoppers worry about supply chain issues after highway closures'
Okanagan shoppers worry about supply chain issues after highway closures

Nolan’s Pharmasave in Vernon was also expecting medications to be flown in on Friday.

Pharmacist Will Beley said the store’s supplies are “dwindling quickly.”

“It’s hard. It’s trying for the staff and everything just because there is this unknown,” Beley said, on Friday.

“Even today we don’t know that it is going to show up, but we are pretty sure it will. We received invoices saying that it is coming.”

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The store typically gets medication delivered six days a week but hasn’t had a shipment since Saturday.

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Nolan’s Pharmasave has also been dispensing shorter supplies of medication than it would normally give out so more patients can get the medication they need, but by Friday had run out of certain things.

“There definitely [have] been occasions that we’ve had to say that we don’t have it. But it hasn’t been an emergency situation where they had to have it,” Beley said.

Both pharmacies said patients had been understanding and willing to take shorter supplies of their medications during the highway closures.

Read more: B.C. floods: Highway route restored between Lower Mainland, B.C. Interior for essential travel

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Late on Friday, Highway 3 reopened to essential traffic reconnecting the Interior and Lower Mainland.

Prior to Highway 3 reopening, the flooding and landslides had cut off all major B.C. highways between the two regions for days.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the reopening of Highway 3. The story was originally published prior to the highway reopening.

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