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J_DuffinJacalyn Duffin is a hematologist and historian who holds the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine at Queen’s University


“I want to quit my chemo. I can’t take the nausea. My drug is not available and the other things just don’t work.” It was November 2010 and in front of me sat a 50 year-old widowed mother of two with uncanny, pale green eyes and stage IV cancer; she shook with nerves and defiance. Her support drug was prochlorperazine, which has been around as long as I have. “That’s impossible!” I said and picked up the phone to call her pharmacist. He sounded weary, but politely explained that there was none left in the entire city. “But,” he added, “you can prescribe XXX.” Well, although XXX is fancy, new, and expensive, it did not work for my patient. I smelled a rat.

We quickly discovered that this “shortage” was just one of many that had been increasing ...continue reading