Worldwide drug shortage disrupting lives of Parkinson's patients in B.C.

WATCH: A key drug used to treat Parkinson's patients is running dangerously low. As Nadia Stewart reports people are now scrambling to find alternatives. Today's Global News Hour at 6 Health Matters is brought to you by Pharmasave.

People living with Parkinson’s disease are struggling to cope now that a drug they depend on is in short supply.

Sinemet is a prescription medication taken by Parkinson’s patients to help manage symptoms and tremors.

Gary Harysom has been taking Sinemet three times a day since shortly after he was diagnosed with the disease back in 2010.


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“The change in my symptoms after I took, I began Sinemet were immediate and complete,” he said.

However, six months ago, he learned from his pharmacist the drug was in short supply due to a worldwide shortage. It’s still unclear exactly what’s behind the backlog. Parkinson’s patient John Hougan said he and others have been digging up what they can online, turning to sites like drugshortagescanada.ca for answers.

“What’s the issue? What’s the hold up? Is it an ingredient? Are they not able to get what the active ingredient is? Are they not able to get what the filler ingredients are?” Hougan asked.

Sinement is made for Merck by another manufacturer, though Merck packages and distributes the drug. In an email to Global News, Merck would only say it’s experiencing “supply constraints” worldwide and it has received an increase in orders far exceeding its forecast.

“They know that the number of people with Parkinson’s disease is growing worldwide and so you would think that there would be some pre-planning they could do in terms of production of the drug,” Jean Blake, CEO of the Parkinson’s Society of BC, said.


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The shortage means patients have to rely on generic drugs, which can be tougher to swallow and, some say, are less effective because one has more filler in it than the other. Harysom says he has no choice but to rely on generics now, though it’s less than ideal.

“It is a vital mediacation for people… without that, there’s gonna be a severe problem among the community of people who have the misfortune to get this dreadful disease,” he said.

Merck says it could be early 2019 before the medication will be back in stock.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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