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'They told me, 'You can't be without it'': Heart patients worry about nitro shortages

Nitroglycerine sprays are currently in short supply in Canada. (Courtesy: Health Canada) Nitroglycerine sprays are currently in short supply in Canada. (Courtesy: Health Canada)
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A long-standing and effective treatment for chest pains caused by heart disease is in short supply in Canada right now, and patients are deeply concerned.

"Most definitely," said Lois Hutt from her home in Chester Basin, N.S.

The 69-year-old retired office manager survived a heart attack in February of 2020, and she's relied on a nitroglycerin spray since.

"I had an EKG the other week, and they told me, ‘You can't be without it,’" she told CTV News on the phone.

But it's not just the spray that's in short supply.

According to Health Canada, supplies of nitroglycerine tablets are also difficult to access at the moment.

An unnamed shortage of materials is said to be behind the issue.

"Canada is experiencing a shortage of nitroglycerin 0.4 MG/ACT sprays due to supply issues with the raw materials used to make the sprays as well as an increase in demand," said a news release from the agency.

The initial shortage of sprays lead to a heavier demand for tablets.

"Together with its partners, Health Canada is looking at ways to conserve existing supply, expedite resupplies to hospitals and pharmacies, and access foreign-authorized supply or alternatives, where possible," said Health Canada.

In the meantime, the agency is urging patients to help stretch the existing supply by:

  • only obtaining what they need from their pharmacy
  • keep expired product;
  • check the chart below to confirm which product(s) can be used beyond their original (printed) expiry date

Nitroglycerine sprays are currently in short supply in Canada. (Courtesy:Health Canada)

The ongoing situation is worrisome to Lois Hutt.

"It's one of the first line of defense for heart disease," she told CTV.

 "I can only comment for myself on how terrified I am, being a person with heart disease."

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