Public advisory

Shortage of salbutamol inhalers in Canada

Starting date:
April 17, 2020
Type of communication:
Source of recall:
Health Canada
General Public
Identification number:

Last updated: 2020-06-15


Product: Salbutamol inhalers

Issue: Increased demand for salbutamol inhalers due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to reported shortages and limited supply of this product in Canada. Health Canada is taking steps to mitigate the impact of the shortages  and is providing advice to Canadians on how to conserve supply.

What to do: Continue taking your regular medication for the maintenance of your respiratory condition as prescribed. This will keep your condition under control and reduce your need for salbutamol to relieve acute symptoms (rescue medication).


Salbutamol relieves the acute symptoms of medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory conditions, such as coughing, wheezing and feeling breathless. It relaxes the muscles of the airways, making it easier to breathe.

Some manufacturers have reported shortages of this product on because of an increase in demand related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, to manage and conserve supply, most patients will receive only one inhaler at a time when they go to refill their prescription.

Health Canada understands the stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and recognizes that Canadians may be concerned about not being able to get the medications they rely on for themselves and their loved ones.

The health and safety of Canadians is Health Canada’s first priority. We are working closely with other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, international partners, and industry to help minimize the impact of this shortage and to help ensure that Canadians have access to the drugs they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes exploring access to international supplies and working with companies that are able to ramp up production, to increase supplies in Canada.

To help conserve supply of all medications, the Department recently advised Canadians not to purchase more medication than they need, and asked health professionals to avoid prescribing or dispensing larger supplies of medication than necessary, to help prevent shortages caused by increased demand.

In addition, on March 30, 2020, the Minister of Health signed an Interim Order permitting the exceptional importation and sale of drugs needed to prevent or alleviate the effects of shortages directly or indirectly related to COVID-19. This followed legislative amendments made to the Food and Drugs Act on March 25, 2020, that enable Health Canada to put in place more robust tools to support efforts to help prevent and alleviate shortages. Health Canada will continue to use these and all other tools at its disposal, to prevent shortages where possible and to mitigate the impacts on Canadians when shortages do occur.

Canadians are encouraged to visit for up-to-date information about drug shortages and estimated re-supply dates. Patients with questions or concerns about a drug shortage may also wish to speak to their health care professional.

Stay connected with Health Canada and receive the latest advisories and information on product recalls.

What consumers should do

  • Continue taking your regular medication for the maintenance of your respiratory condition, as prescribed. This will keep your asthma, COPD or other respiratory condition under control and reduce your need for salbutamol to relieve acute symptoms.
  • Carefully track your doses of salbutamol and ensure that you have a one-month supply of all your inhalers at home. Keep track of your medication supply and leave additional time to obtain your refills from the pharmacy.
  • You should expect that when you go to refill your inhaler prescriptions, you will receive only a one-month supply of your inhaler in response to inventory control measures.
  • In light of the shortage of salbutamol, do not discard recently expired inhalers unless you have already obtained a replacement. If you need to use your inhaler and have not been able to obtain a replacement for your expired inhaler, speak with a medical professional about using the expired inhaler.
  • If you need to use your inhaler and have only an inhaler that was removed from the wrapper more than 60 days ago, speak with a medical professional about using this inhaler.
  • Do not buy more medication than usual to help ensure that all Canadians continue to have access to the medications they need and to help prevent drug shortages.

Media Enquiries:

Health Canada

(613) 957-2983

Public Enquiries:

(613) 957-2991