TORONTO -- A shortage of the drug oxytocin, a “critical” drug that reduces the likelihood of postpartum bleeding, emergency surgeries and helps induce labour in pregnant women is being reported by a national drug shortage website.
“Oxytocin is recommended to be used in every delivery in Canada, so its shortage poses a huge impact,” Clinical Assistant Prof. at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Calgary Dr. Fiona Mattatall told CTV News.ca in an email.
Oxytocin reduces the likelihood of postpartum bleeding and emergency surgeries for the mother, Mattatall said, and is used “as part of labour induction,” including strengthening contractions to avoid C-sections.
Mattatall said for both labour induction and strengthening contractions, there is “no alternative to oxytocin.”
“In my time training and working on labour delivery units across Canada since 1995, I have never seen a shortage of oxytocin,” Mattatall said.
“My worry is that without access to this critical medication, we may see an increase in caesarean section rates and postpartum hemorrhage [bleeding] for Canadian women.”
Dr. Tony Armson, president of The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada said in an emailed statement to CTV News.ca that they are investigating the reported oxytocin shortage with Health Canada and will be informing their members and “providing clinical alternatives” if needed.
Armson said the organization will know more details about the shortage after they meet with Health Canada on Monday.
The Drug Shortages Canada website alert states that the oxytocin shortage will begin on October 13, and the estimated end date is November 15.
The reason for the shortage is listed as increased demand for the drug and the company - Fresenius Kabi Canada Ltd - says the drug has been on 50 per cent allocation since September 13 of this year.
The World Health Organization includes oxytocin and its affiliated name Pitocin in its list of “essential medicines.”
Canada's mandatory drug shortage and discontinuation reporting website is operated by Bell Canada under contract with Health Canada. https://www.drugshortagescanada.ca
This story has been updated with a quote clarification from Dr. Fiona Mattatall