Health Canada confirmed on Wednesday that they’re doing everything they can to resolve the country-wide shortage of tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug. Recognizing the potentially significant impact that Canada's breast cancer drug shortage could have on patients, the government agency has committed to “resolving the national shortage as quickly as possible.”

According to Health Canada, three of the major Canadian companies that supply tamoxifen have reported recent shortages of the essential drug in the country.

Over the past few weeks, Canada Apotex Inc., AstraZeneca Canada Inc., and Teva Canada Ltd. have all confirmed shortages of tamoxifen, due to unexpected manufacturing disruptions and increased demand for the drug.

While the product is still available within the Canadian healthcare system, the government's health agency has reported unusually low supply levels, leading companies to implement “distribution management strategies” to try and conserve the vital supply.

Over the coming weeks, the government reports that some patients may be given less than usual at their local pharmacy or hospital, in an attempt to keep control of the shortage as much as possible.

While current supplies remain low, Health Canada is confident that the drug will be widely available again by early 2020. Manufacturers report that some tamoxifen stocks could even be rectified by early December.

Tamoxifen is the most commonly used anti-estrogen drug that is given to breast cancer patients as part of hormonal therapy, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Not only used to treat cancer, but tamoxifen is also used to prevent the return of cancer, so some patients can be prescribed the drug for as long as a decade.

In a statement, Health Canada said they “expect” patients who need tamoxifen during the shortage period will be able to access it, and periodic gaps at a local pharmacy level should be able to be resolved quickly.

They added, “The health and safety of Canadians is our top priority, and we recognize the significant impact that this shortage has on patients.”

In a statement to CTV News, Health Canada said they have been working to “identify mitigation measures, including exploring access to international supply,” and the new end of shortage estimates are a result of those investigations.

They also noted on their website that they recognize the "significant impact" that the shortage of the breast cancer treatment could have on patients, and "the strain that shortages can place on patients and the health care system."

"The Department continues to use all available tools to assess and manage national shortages when they happen," the federal agency continued.

While Health Canada is the federal regulator responsible for the safety, efficacy, and quality of Canadian health products, individual companies are responsible for the supply of their products.

Full details on the shortage can be found here.

*This article's cover image is for illustrative purposes only.

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