Just to assure the committee, Health Canada takes drug shortages very seriously. This is a phenomenon that does not just affect Canada; I can certainly assure the committee of that.
Part of it has to do with the structure of the global pharmaceutical industry. There are cases in which there might only be a small handful of active pharmaceutical ingredient suppliers for a particular class of drug, and so you may have a phenomenon whereby a given API that's needed to manufacture a drug is in global shortage. Shortages are an issue. Actually, when we talk to our colleagues in other countries around the world, we find they're grappling with some of the same issues. I want to assure members of that.
The second thing I would say, with regard to EpiPen specifically, is that there have been approvals given to a number of manufacturers to market their products in Canada.
As to the decision of when they enter the market and so on—they obviously they have to set up supply chains to get the products onto shelves—we anticipate having some of the products we approved coming into the market over the next year, which will give Canadians other options.
In the case of EpiPen specifically, particularly given the concern around it, we authorized the import from the United States of an equivalent product. We've had bulk shipments of that product coming into the Canadian market to make sure that while the Canadian product is in shortage, people have an option.
We have a committee that works very closely together as a kind of federal-provincial-territorial committee, and when there's a serious drug shortage, we are, frankly, on the phone with our colleagues at the provincial-territorial level constantly to get a sense of where the supply is in Canada and how we can work together to make sure that patients are attended to.
The other thing I would say is that we are also on the phone with our colleagues internationally. In the case of EpiPen, I can assure members that we're talking to colleagues in other major industrial countries with similar regulatory systems to see whether they have supply and whether we can get the supply into Canada. When there's a major drug shortage, we hear about it instantaneously from provinces and we're all over it.
Obviously, though, sometimes there are limits to the ability to get our hands on product, and I appreciate that it's a real concern for Canadians.