Health Canada tells hospitals to quarantine morphine from Sandoz

Sandoz Canada is in the spotlight again this week after Canadian health officials told hospitals to quarantine boxes of the company's injectable morphine after one was found to contain another drug.

Sandoz, which is at the center of a Canadian drug shortage, informed Health Canada that a Toronto hospital discovered a package of 2 mg/ml injectable morphine sulphate that also contained ampoules labeled as 0.2 mg/ml isoproterenol hydrochloride injection, the Canadian Press is reporting. The drug isn't being recalled, but hospitals are being advised not to use the product until further notice.

The quarantine involves 5,700 boxes of morphine, according to Postmedia News. Sandoz can't confirm whether there are other similarly mislabeled boxes in hospitals.

Isoproterenol hydrochloride has a number of uses, including for cardiac arrest patients prior to defibrillator use. But it also can cause abnormal heart rhythms, headaches, tremors and sweating.

Government officials were quick in reassuring patients and doctors. "At this point I am not aware, nor have I been advised, that this will lead to the postponement of any procedures or affect patient care in the immediate," B.C. Health Minister Mike DeJong said, according to the Canadian Press.

Word of the quarantine comes right after Sandoz assured Canadians that it won't jack up the prices of its meds during the current shortage. The Novartis ($NVS) unit has been at the center of the shortage, particularly after one of its plants had to reduce production because of GMP issues and a recent fire. The company is the only supplier of more than 140 generic injectable drugs and serves as a major source for Canadian hospitals.

- see the report from the Canadian Press
- check out the story in Postmedia News