Frequently Asked Questions – Tamoxifen shortage in Canada

What is Tamoxifen?

Tamoxifen is a commonly administered anti-estrogen drug, used as part of hormonal therapy, mainly to treat breast cancer; however, it is also used, infrequently, to treat other conditions.


What has caused the shortage of the drug Tamoxifen?

Tamoxifen is manufactured in Canada by Apotex, Teva Canada and AstraZeneca. All three companies are reporting supply shortages which is affecting all provinces and territories. At this time, the issue appears to be limited to Canada.


How long is the shortage expected to last?

It is not confirmed when the Tamoxifen shortage will be resolved, but it is possible that it could last until December 2019 or January 2020.


As a patient, what do I do if I can’t find a pharmacy to refill my prescription of Tamoxifen?  

The Cancer Care Program is currently contacting patients who have been prescribed Tamoxifen through registered mail. Patients are directed to call their pharmacy to assist in securing their prescription. If their pharmacy is not able to obtain Tamoxifen, the patient can call the Cancer Care Centre at 1-844-923-1336 and health-care staff will assist with the next steps. The telephone line is available between Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you have been prescribed Tamoxifen, but have not received your letter, please contact the Cancer Care Centre at 1-844-923-1336 if you have questions


What is being done to manage the shortage in this province and nationally?


  • Eastern Health’s Cancer Care Team, in consultation with both provincial and national key stakeholders, have developed protocols to assist medical oncologists in managing this shortage of Tamoxifen.
  • The Provincial Cancer Care Program is working with its oncologists, the Pharmacists’ Association of NL, the Department of Health and Community Services and various programs within Eastern Health and have developed a contingency plan to address the shortage.
  • The Eastern Health Pharmacy Team is working directly with community pharmacies to identify current supply, to help mitigate the risk associated with a shortage of supply, and to assist patients who need a prescription filled.

In addition:

  • Medical oncologists with the Provincial Cancer Care Program have developed protocols in keeping with national standards and available treatment options, to provide direction for alternate treatment choices for patients as necessary.
  • The Pharmacists’ Association of NL has contacted all community pharmacies to request assistance with securing available supplies of Tamoxifen and to request that they dispense Tamoxifen in one-month supply increments per patient as a conservation measure.


Health Canada recognizes the nature of this drug shortage and is exploring all possible venues to mitigate the situation. With support from the Canadian Association of Provincial Cancer Agencies, (CAPCA) and the provinces/territories, the Drug Shortages Unit at Health Canada is actively working with all Canadian suppliers of Tamoxifen, to determine if product from out-of-country could be imported for use in Canada.

Are there any alternative drugs or treatments to Tamoxifen?

Medical Oncologists in the Cancer Care Program have developed a protocol for patients that outlines potential alternative treatment plans, based on individual patient needs. Patients remain our top priority during a drug shortage, and we take all necessary measures to ensure that patients continue to receive high-quality care.


How will my health be impacted by this shortage?

Each patient’s treatment plan is unique to them. If you are unable to maintain your supply of Tamoxifen, your physician will work with you to develop a plan that meets your particular needs.


Who should I contact if I have further questions about how this drug shortage may affect me?

Call the Cancer Care Centre at 1-844-923-1336 and health-care staff will assist you with the next steps. The telephone line is available between Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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