08/15/2012 05:30 EDT | Updated 10/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Prescription Drug Shortage Hits B.C. Patients

In this June 14, 2011file photo, bottles of prescription drugs as labeled Lipitor, TriCor, Plavix, Singulair, Lexapro and Avapro are displayed at Medco Health Solutions Inc., in Willingboro, N.J. Medco Health Solutions says its fourth-quarter profit rose 12 percent Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012, as increases in mail-order prescriptions and generic drug dispensing rates helped the pharmacy benefits manager offset expenses from its pending acquisition by Express Scripts Inc. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Patients in British Columbia are being forced to switch medications due to prescription drug shortages, making many treatments unavailable across the province.

Health Canada encourages manufacturers to report any current or anticipated shortages to an online database.

However, many patients are either leaving pharmacies empty-handed or switching their medication after finding it difficult to get the prescription drugs they need to treat a range of conditions, including cystic fibrosis.

Melissa Drury, mother of three-year-old cystic fibrosis sufferer Jillian, had problems getting her daughter Pancrease MT 10, which contains digestive enzymes needed to help her digest her food.

"So, you're doing the best you can to keep your kid alive and to prevent infections, and then added stresses of, 'Okay, I've got to find this medication and call around,' and there's delays," said Drury.

The temporary Pancrease shortage led Drury to find an alternative enzyme to give Jillian, which she said did not work as well.

Now the shortage is over, Drury worries she will be faced with more problems in future.

"We haven't faced any serious shortages but I hear of other mums, they're sort of nonchalant about having waited for three months, and I'm blown away."

Dr. Mark Chilvers of the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at B.C. Children's Hospital said the exact reason for the shortages is difficult to pin down.

"As with any medication, we're continually monitoring that and ensuring that medication is suitable," he said.

According to Chilvers, shortages have been an ongoing issue and the clinic is working with families to find safe alternatives.