Shortages of Palliative Care Medications in Canada during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Gambling with Suffering

Healthc Q. 2021 Jan;23(4):17-22. doi: 10.12927/hcq.2020.26398.


Patients with serious illnesses such as cancer, advanced organ failure, dementia and COVID-19 rely on medications to alleviate suffering from uncontrolled symptoms. Numerous actual or threatened shortages of key medications used to provide palliation have been reported during the COVID-19 pandemic. This article explores the nature of these shortages, factors that have contributed to them and strategies to mitigate them. It calls on all levels of the healthcare system and the government to address this problem. Shortages in these medications are as serious as shortages in medications used to cure or control diseases.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Canada
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / supply & distribution*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations