Research

New online tool monitors prescription drug use in Ontario during COVID-19 pandemic

This tool can help us avoid drug shortages and help the government adapt more quickly to disruptions in access to medication.

When COVID-19 hit Canada in mid-March, Ontarians stockpiled inhalers.

The dispensing of Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medication touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19, and since disproven, spiked 19.2 per cent.

And the demand for flu shots soared 21 per cent after health-care officials urged everyone to get vaccinated to avoid a dual COVID-19-influenza burden on the health-care system – an upward trend that is anticipated to continue this flu season.

That’s according to a new online dashboard tool launched on October 15 by scientists at the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN), with support from St. Michael’s donors.

The COVID-19 Ontario Prescription Drug Utilization Tool monitors prescription drug usage trends across the province based on pharmacy dispensing. It’s showing that the pandemic is placing additional pressure on a drug supply already under strain. And as the pandemic progresses, it will provide data to inform policy makers, clinicians and the public, enable better planning, and mitigate the risks of drug shortages.

“There’s a real concern that COVID-19 drug shortages can negatively impact people’s health if they can’t get the medication they need,” says Dr. Tara Gomes, a scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, and a principal investigator at ODPRN. “Being able to monitor these trends, and see how policies as well as clinical practices are changing the way in which the drug supply is being used, can help us avoid drug shortages and help the government adapt more quickly to disruptions in access to medication.”

Our renowned scientists are at the forefront of the global race to end COVID-19. Support life-saving science by donating to St. Michael’s Power Fund.

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