The Alberta Cancer Society says it has not had any cases of cancer-causing drugs to be distributed to patients in the province since early this year.
The society said it received more than 1,000 reports of people getting cancer-related prescriptions from December to March of this year and that it had received more cancer-linked prescriptions than any other province or territory.
But Dr. Eric Pate, chair of the society’s medical committee, said he was surprised that the province’s cancer drugs have not been distributed.
“There’s not a single case that we have in Alberta where they’ve been distributed to the community,” he said in an interview.
“It’s a bit surprising that they haven’t been distributed at all.”
Dr. Pate said he has seen no evidence to suggest Alberta has any shortage of medicines for patients.
The Society says in its annual report that it has received more applications for cancer-specific medicines than any of the other provinces or territories.
It says more than one-third of its clients are over 65 years old and more than 20 per cent are women.
The society’s report says the number of cancer medicines prescribed in Alberta has grown from 3,500 to 3,800 in 2016.
It said there are no plans to expand distribution in the future.
“We don’t have any plans to increase our medical staff to provide more cancer drugs to Alberta patients,” said Dr. Pates.
The Alberta Cancer Institute says its own statistics show there are approximately 2,400 people who receive cancer-based medicines in the provincial hospital system each year.
Its president, Dr. Greg O’Connor, said the province is doing a good job of distributing cancer-relevant drugs to patients.
“I think Alberta is an amazing place to be in terms of the amount of medical services they provide,” he told CBC News.
“They have a very well-trained and well-equipped health-care workforce and we have a robust system of care for people in the community.”
He said that if patients can access cancer drugs, it’s a positive.
“If people can access a treatment, they’re likely to get a treatment in the long run that may prevent them from getting cancer,” said O’Connor.
The Association of Alberta Hospitals says the cancer drugs are only available through pharmacies and some clinics.
The Association of Health Care Producers said it is a good practice to distribute drugs in pharmacies, but says some clinics are not required to do so.
Dr. Scott Wudrick, president of the Alberta Medical Association, said if you’re an Alberta patient, the government is making sure you’re getting the best care possible.
“It is really, really important to be getting the treatment that is appropriate for you, and to have a good prognosis,” said Wudricks.
“Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any specific advice that the government has given to physicians, which is that patients should be encouraged to get the treatment and to be patient-centred and make informed choices.”