Quebec plant fixes force Sandoz to slash output

The U.S. isn't the only country staring down the barrel of a drug shortage. Canada is facing multiple supply problems, now that a Sandoz plant in Quebec has scaled back production, CBC News reports. The generics division of Novartis ($NVS) is suspending output of some products and cutting back on others as it works to fix manufacturing violations flagged by the FDA.

"As we progress with our remediation activities, all production processes will be affected, significantly reducing output ... and likely resulting in temporary supply disruptions," Sandoz Canada's president, Michel Robidoux, told pharmacists in a letter obtained by The Globe and Mail. The company will prioritize "medically necessary drugs," Robidoux said, while halting production of less critical products.

"We will focus all available Boucherville injectable capacity on the supply of life-saving and acute care injectable medicines to ensure that patients with critical medical conditions continue receiving adequate treatment," the letter states. Eye drugs, ointments and some other formulations will be put on the back burner. Doctors may have to turn to other treatment alternatives for some patients, Robidoux stated.

The problem is that Sandoz is one of the Canada's biggest suppliers of injectable cancer and heart drugs. CTV reports it's a sole supplier for some Quebec hospitals of certain drugs. Meanwhile, pharmacies have already had their orders turned away, CNBC says. And as they have been in the U.S., officials now are calling for new systems to prevent drug shortages.

Sandoz told The Globe and Mail that it has earmarked more than $170 million for fixes at the Quebec plant and two others in the U.S. All three were cited in a warning letter issued by the FDA in November.

- read the CNBC coverage
- get more from The Globe and Mail
- see the CTV piece
- check out the Sandoz letter (.pdf)