03/07/2012 04:59 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Canada Drug Shortage: B.C. Elective Surgeries May Be Cancelled

VICTORIA - B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong says a shortage of pain killing drugs may result in cancelled elective surgeries if supplies continue to run low.

He says health officials in the province are scrambling to avoid what could be major shortfall of drugs like morphine caused by production problems at a pharmaceutical facility operated by Sandoz Canada in Quebec.

De Jong says no patients have been affected and no surgeries have been cancelled in B.C. so far, but the province is working with other provinces and the federal government to find alternate supplies of pain drugs.

He says the Sandoz supply issues have resulted in lower stocks of routinely used injectable narcotics at hospitals such as morphine, hydromorphone and fentanyl.

He says the supply problem won't affect emergency treatments, life-saving procedures or the needs of palliative care patients.

Earlier this week, Health Canada said the federal government will speed up the approval of offshore medications as long as they meet regulatory standards for quality and effectiveness.