2021 Potential Pentobarbital Shortage

May 19, 2021

We are aware of a global disruption in the supply of Pentobarbital sodium, the active ingredient in the most commonly used euthanasia products for animals in Canada.

CAHI is asking Canadian veterinarians for their assistance

Please help manage current inventories of pentobarbital sodium by:

  • administering ONLY the recommended dose of pentobarbital unless more is absolutely necessary; and
  • ordering ONLY the amount of pentobarbital sodium euthanasia products needed to cover their immediate clinic/practice needs.

This will help to ensure that all practices across the country can continue to have access to existing inventories for as long as possible and give industry, Health Canada and the CVMA the time needed to develop and implement feasible mitigation measures, including alternative products, methods and protocols.

The Situation

The potential shortage is due to an explosion at an overseas manufacturing site in December 2020. As this manufacturing site works to restore operations, the shortage of the active ingredient is beginning to have an impact on the global supply of euthanasia products.

At this point, the global disruption in supply has the potential to impact the Canadian supply of euthanasia products in mid- to late 2021 and persist until mid 2022, if there is no change in ordering and use behaviours and stockpiling of supplies is avoided as much as possible.

As a result, consistent messaging and communications from all veterinary regulatory authorities, veterinary associations, manufacturers, and distributors across the country is critical in order to:

  1. preserve access to currently licensed pentobarbital-based products for all Canadian veterinarians for as long as possible to allow for the implementation of regulatory mitigation measures, such as importation of foreign-labelled products; and
  2. successfully guide the Canadian veterinary profession through a potential shortage of pentobarbital sodium towards the end of 2021 and into 2022, should this prove unavoidable.

What we are doing

CAHI is working with Health Canada, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), manufacturers, importers and distributors to minimize the impact of the global shortage on Canadian supplies of euthanasia products. Mitigation strategies currently being explored include regulatory flexibility and enforcement discretion approaches to allow for the importation of alternative euthanasia products with foreign labels on a temporary basis. CVMA has formed an expert advisory group that is developing resources and guidance on alternative methods and protocols.

With respect to supply chain and distribution, CAHI is working with its membership and stakeholders to carefully manage existing and expected inventories of currently licensed pentobarbital sodium products while longer-term mitigation strategies are developed. This includes allocations for all orders of pentobarbital sodium products, effective immediately, and the development of key messaging and resources for veterinary practitioners.