Pharmacists receiving short shipments as drug shortage continues

By Laura Osman


OTTAWA _ Ongoing drug shortages are leaving pharmacies across the country to adjust to short shipments on the fly, according to the Canadian Pharmacists Association.

The association first warned of the possibility of shortages in early March, when supply chains for ingredients and finished medications were disrupted by COVID-19 in China.

While Canada has seen a spike in shortages since then, it hasn’t developed into the emergency situation some health officials had feared.

“(Pharmacists) are managing their inventory as best they can with the product that they’re getting, and nobody is going without medication,” said association spokesperson Barry Power.

That sometimes means finding substitute medications when the top choice is running low, he said.

Drug shortages are not new in Canada, but the pandemic has put added stress on pharmacies. Last year, the association said manufacturers reported about five new drug shortages per day in Canada. That increased to 16 a day by early April.

Meanwhile Health Canada has identified 27 drug shortages that could have a serious impact on the health system, typically because there are few good alternatives for those particular medications. Most of the drugs listed are used in the treatment of COVID-19, such as sedatives, painkillers and drugs being investigated as treatments for the viral disease.

Pharmacists have also reported shortages of certain over-the-counter medications like Pepcid, Power said. An intravenous form of the heartburn medication is being researched as a potential COVID-19 treatment. Another reason for its sudden popularity could be a recent recall of competitor medication Zantac, which might have people reaching for an alternative, he said.

The fact that everyone is still getting some form of the medication they need is likely an indication that drug-rationing measures are working, Power said.

In March the association recommended pharmacies restrict the amount of drugs they dispense to a 30-day supply per patient.

“It’s cut back on the demand for things. So I think there has been definitely a positive impact on making sure that people are still able to get their medications. Maybe not the quantities they want, but they are able to get it,” Power said.

The main drawback is that some patients have had to pay more frequent dispensing fees.

“I’m going to have to decide between test strips and food,” said Siva Swaminathan, a Type 1 diabetic who lives in Toronto.

Managing her condition means taking several medications, and replenishing her supply of needles, test strips and pump supplies.

She lost her income during the epidemic, and now has to pay three times the dispensing fees as usual. That’s left her out of pocket an extra $110 so far.

“It’s really, really expensive to buy the drugs individually without the province stepping in,” she said.

Several provinces have changed the way they provide co-payments to compensate for the added costs, but others like Ontario have not.

Meanwhile British Columbia and New Brunswick have started to return to dispensing 90-day supplies, Power said.

As China reopens its economy, the flow of drugs along the supply chain is improving. But it’s not back to normal yet, he warned, and that’s why the association has not lifted the recommendation to limit dispensing.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen if everybody goes back to a 90-day supply,” he said.  “There’s still a lot of vulnerability in the supply chain.”

Power says the association is working with Health Canada, drug manufacturers and wholesalers to decide when those restrictions should be lifted.



7 ways to #GetReal about how you feel

7 ways to #GetReal about how you feel

Every year, in the first full week of May, people rally for CMHA Mental Health Week. It’s a Canadian tradition bringing communities, schools and workplaces together to celebrate, protect and promote mental health.

This year, things are looking a little different. We are confined to our individual living spaces, in a time of collective uncertainty and physical distancing.

We’re learning that we need each other now more than ever. It is precisely the time, during and in recovery from the pandemic, to lean on each other. Even if we can’t be close physically with one another, we need to stay close emotionally.

Let’s have real conversations about how we’re all really doing. We’re in this together. Here are seven ways to #GetReal about how you really feel – one way for every day of Mental Health Week.

Check-in on how you really feel.

How many times in a week do you ask—or answer—the question, “How are you?”

And how many times do you go through the motions, and skip the opportunity to really connect? Chances are you’re feeling more or less than just “fine.” The English language has literally thousands of words to describe how we feel. Check out our article, More than simply fine a long list of ways to express yourself. Next time someone asks you how you are doing, tell them like it really is. See how it changes your conversations.

Get social on social media.

We’re living in a digital age in which the world is just a touchscreen away. We can reach hundreds, even thousands of friends, family members and peers with the tap of a finger. Now is the time to really harness the power of social media and take the opportunity to use our platforms for good. Download the toolkit and #GetReal by mix-and-matching your favourite social media images and posts. Take it a step further and customize our blank social media images with your own text and then upload to your profile.

Tip: Use #GetReal and #MentalHealthWeek in your post to be part of the online conversation!

Be Generous

Research shows us time and time again that by giving to others, you give to yourself. Whether you volunteer your time, do random acts of kindness or donate to a cause, helping others will boost your mental health and wellbeing. Our communities need us more than ever, so for Mental Health Week, give back. In whatever way you can.

Practice Listening

The key to real connection? Listening. Really listening. And some studies show we could do so much better at it. The good news is that listening is a skill you can build, and we’ve collected some tips to help you do just that.

So, do your part and brush up on your listening skills. Check out our tips for some pointers and then dive in and practice with a friend. Top it off by reviewing your skills with our Listening Checklist. You’ll be a careful, active listener in no time.

Check-in on your mental health

What better way to celebrate Mental Health Week than to check in on your own mental health? While feeling well means different things to different people, some things might actually apply to all of us: in order to thrive, we all need a good sense of self, and we all need a sense of purpose, contribution, hope, resilience and belonging.

To make it easy, we’ve created a simple checklist to guide you in checking in with yourself. Encourage the people you love to check in, too.

Turn your camera on

We’re lucky to be living in an age when we can have face-to-face conversations regardless of the distance between us, thanks to video technology. If you have a computer, a smart phone, or a tablet, you can set up video for free using Skype, Messenger, WhatsApp and other video services. If you want to meet in a group, Zoom is for you (

The possibilities are truly endless. Try having a virtual coffee date, game night or just a simple check-in. Even if you can’t be close physically, the virtual face-to-face time will strengthen your connection.


Celebrate Mental Health Week by being kind to others. There’s even a new (Canadian!) term for that: it’s caremongering. Showing kindness can actually work to decrease stress, which we’re feeling more of lately. Thank someone for their friendship, or send a kind message on social media. Or reach out to that neighbour who might need your kindness more than ever. What only takes a few minutes, can make somebody’s day.

Sun Life net income falls by 37 per cent, but beats expectations in Q1

TORONTO _ Sun Life Financial Inc. beat analyst expectations even as its net income plunged by 37 per cent to $391 million in the first quarter.

The Toronto-based insurer says it earned 67 cents per share for the three months ended March 31, down from $1.04 per share or $623 million a year earlier.

Sun Life says its underlying earnings grew by seven per cent to $770 million or $1.31 per share.

That compared with $717 million or $1.20 per share in the first quarter of 2019.

The insurance company was expected to earn $1.12 per share in adjusted profits, according to the financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Sun Life revealed the earnings after markets closed after its stock fell by 4.25 per cent to $44.79.


Car insurance discounts available during the pandemic

Car insurance discounts available during the pandemic

The excerpted article was written by BY  

Vehicle insurance 

AllState Canada: AllState has created a one-time, “Stay at Home Payment” for customers with an active automobile policy as of April 8, 2020. Customers who qualify will receive a payment that’s approximately 25 per cent of their monthly premium.

The Canadian Auto Association: The CAA is offering a 10 per cent rate decrease for those who are new or returning policyholders and the discount will apply over a 12-month policy term.

Desjardins insurance: Refunds are available for those who have seen their driving habits reduced significantly due to COVID-19. Distance travelled will be calculated over a three month period to determine the amount of the refund. Customers need to apply by May 31 to qualify.

Economical Insurance: Economical is also offering refunds if there’s proof you’ve been driving less. You could be eligible for a 15 per cent reduction based on how many kilometres you’ve driven until June 30. Coverage suspension is also an option for customers who aren’t driving at all.

Aviva: Through their #StayatHome discount, Aviva is offering reductions of up to 15 per cent if you are driving less. To qualify for the savings, customers need to contact their broker or agent.

Wawanesca: The insurance broker is cancelling non-sufficient funds fees until May 25 and is offering options to reduce coverage if you are driving less so savings can apply.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

From car insurance to TV streaming: All the discounts available during the pandemic


Mortgage, housing agency says home prices won’t recover from COVID for years

Mortgage, housing agency says home prices won’t recover from COVID for years

By David Paddon


TORONTO _ Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. officials said Tuesday they expect real estate prices won’t return to pre-recession levels until late 2022 at the earliest.

The housing agency also cautioned that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unpredictable and beyond its worst-case estimates prior to the outbreak.

CMHC routinely does stress tests to estimate what could happen under various severe conditions, but chief executive Evan Siddall said the stress tests focus on what’s considered to be “plausible” scenarios.

“We did, back in January, look at a pandemic scenario that was not as severe as this,” Siddall said in a teleconference to discuss CMHC’s annual financial report for 2019.

“And I’m sure that you’d understand that the realm of plausibility has expanded significantly as a result of all the experience we’ve had.”

Siddall said the federal Crown corporation which provides market analysis for housing-related industries, mortgage insurance for lenders and funding for public housing projects is now revising its estimates on an expedited basis based on experience during the spring and summer.

He said preliminary figures indicate that about 10 per cent of homeowners across Canada have chosen to defer their mortgage payments, although the rate seems to be higher in parts of the country that rely heavily on the oil and gas industry.

“Tens of thousands of Canadians are having trouble meeting their mortgage commitments,” Siddall said.

Canadian Mortgage and Housing has given lenders the flexibility to extend mortgage deferrals by a further six months, he said, but the deferrals will mean that missed payments will be added to the total mortgage amount owing on terms determined by contractual agreement between lender and borrower.

CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said that reliable forecasts are difficult to make because there are so many unknown variables, including how much income levels deteriorate because of unemployment, the timing of future immigration and how the construction industry responds.

“But for Canada and for Ontario, I think, the best case we’re looking at … house prices getting back to their pre-recession levels, at the earliest, by the end of 2022,” Dugan said.

The CMHC presentation came shortly after the release of April statistics for Canada’s largest real estate market.

The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board said April home prices in the Greater Toronto Area fell 11.8 per cent from March, when COVID-related shut-downs including open houses began to be put in place mid-month as Canada stepped up its fight to control the health impact of the coronavirus.

Prices for GTA renters were also down for the month, with the average one-bedroom rent falling 2.7 per cent to $2,107, and the average two-bedroom rent falling 4.1 per cent to $2,705 _ still high in comparison with many Canadian cities.

On Monday, Greater Vancouver’s real estate board said its composite price benchmark index was up 0.2 per cent from March, but that the number of sales hit the lowest levels in nearly 40 years  62.7 per cent below their 10-year average.

Other major cities will be releasing their local and regional figures ahead of a national tally to be published by the Canadian Real Estate Association on May 15.

Siddall said that recent federal emergency legislation will ensure CMHC gets the financial resources it requires to perform its functions which, for the first time, include assisting small businesses through a rent-assistance program announced last month.

However, he said, CMHC had ended 2019 with a strong financial position and said it continues towards a 2030 goal of ensuring all Canadians can get the housing they need at affordable prices.

In the meantime, he said, it’s likely that both incomes and home prices will “sag.”

“And it’s how those move relative to each other that will define the gap between where we are now post-crisis and where we will be.”

Document everything, insurance lawyer urges Albertans returning to flooded homes

Document everything, insurance lawyer urges Albertans returning to flooded homes

‘Take lots of photos, don’t take a denial at face value, make notes’

The excerpted article was written by CBC News 

As Northern Alberta residents discover the extent of flooding damage to their homes and businesses, a Fort McMurray lawyer offers a few practical tips that could pay off later in dealings with insurance companies.

Take photos. Make lists. Understand your policy. And don’t give up if your claim is initially denied.

“They’ve just been back to the property for the last day or two and the news is pretty heartbreaking,” said Christine Burton, a Fort McMurray lawyer who has worked through insurance issues with numerous residents in recent years.

“People are dealing with the shock and impact of cleaning up,” Burton told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Tuesday. “We’re telling people, ‘Please, take lots of photos, don’t take a denial at face value, make notes. Stay safe.'”

More than 14,000 people were evacuated as a result of recent river flooding in and around Fort McMurray, as well as along the Peace River.

As people progress from clean-up to rebuild, it is critical that they understand their insurance policies, even if it means hiring a lawyer to work through “subtle” policy language, said Burton.

Most policies won’t include coverage for overland flooding, when water flows over dry land before entering a property through doors or windows.

“It’s often a special endorsement you can buy. It’s very often expensive,” Burton said. The cost depends on the flood risk in the area where you live.

However, property owners whose policy includes a special endorsement for sewer backup may be able to get some money from their insurance companies.

“Take photos of your basements, the drains, the sump pump. Make notes of everything that’s happening, make lists of everything that you’ve lost.

“Fort McMurray has become a little bit of an expert, unfortunately, at insurance claims through fire —  and we’re still dealing with some of those claims,” Burton said. “Don’t take a denial at face value. You can challenge this. Understand your policy.”

Don Scott, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, has said he expects residential damages from the flooding in Fort McMurray could top $100 million.

In a statement, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said overland and sewer backup coverage are the key parts of a policy that pertain to flooding events but both of these are optional and must be added to home insurance policies.

Properties in high-flood areas may not be offered the coverage, the statement said.

“If a home has flood damage from this event but did not purchase the optional overland flood insurance or it was not available as the area is high-risk for flood, the policy would not cover the damages,” Celyeste Power, vice-president for the insurance bureau’s western region, said in the statement.

Property owners not covered by insurance may be able to access provincial disaster relief funding. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has said the provincial disaster relief program will likely be triggered for Wood Buffalo flooding.

Under that program, the government would provide some financial support for recovery costs for critical public infrastructure and non-insured private infrastructure.

Between 2009 and 2019, insurers paid out an average $1.9 billion per year on catastrophic flooding claims, compared with an average $422 million annually in the period from 1983 until 2008, according to Insurance Bureau data.

More than $2 billion in insured losses resulted from the June 2013 flooding event in southern Alberta, which caused $6 billion in damages and displaced 100,000 people.

CBC News

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