COVID-19 developments – federal government issues request for information for alternative suppliers for certain pharmaceuticals

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The federal government has been proactive in seeking help from industry in tackling the pandemic. For example, Health Canada contacted Health Product Licence Holders to let them know specific areas where they may be able to contribute, including:

  • considering Canadian sites for any clinical trial or investigational testing related to COVID-19; and
  • identifying any production capacity that could be used for manufacturing personal protective equipment, ventilators or hand sanitizers and disinfectants.

The federal government has also been proactive in seeking supply of necessary products and services. As previously reported, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) has a page on its procurement website specifically for COVID-19 related products and services (e.g. masks, hand sanitizers, ventilators). Although, curiously, not included with the other COVID-19 products, PWGSC has issued separate Requests for Information (RFI) or Letters of Interest (LOI) for certain pharmaceuticals, namely norepinephrine, epinephrine, azithromycin, propofol, fentanyl, cisatracurium and salbutamol (see link). The RFI / LOI for these pharmaceuticals says:

This request is a tool to identify additional supply that has not already been earmarked to meet Canada’s current needs….

Please Note: If your company is currently working with the Government of Canada to address an existing shortage, we are not looking for information on products already identified to mitigate the shortage. The Government of Canada is also interested in receiving information about acceptable substitute drugs.

These products are all included in Heath Canada’s Tier 3 drug shortages list which, as previously reported, is required before a drug can be considered for Exceptional Importation and Sale (i.e. imported and sold in Canada despite not being fully compliant with Canadian regulatory requirements).

Companies with products on the Tier 3 drug shortages list should be aware the federal government may, as with products like masks and hand sanitizers, proactively seek alternative suppliers who do not normally supply that molecule to the Canadian market in order to mitigate against shortages.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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