Experts are sounding the alarm over a shortage of three cancer-fighting drugs as part of a larger drug shortage issue in Canada.

In Sudbury, doctors at the Northeast Cancer Centre have been doing what they can to ensure there is always a supply available for patients.

Oncologist Dr. Lacey Pitre says Sudbury's Northeast Cancer Centre and Health Sciences North have struck up a committee that deals with each shortage to prioritize where those drugs should go.

"The next step is you take a look at the individual drug and what types of cancer you treat with it and then you determine what are safe and equally effective alternatives, and for the majority of drug shortages, there are safe and effective alternatives that we can use for patients," said Dr. Pitre.

According to the website Drug Shortages Canada, which is under contract with Health Canada, one of the more serious shortages is of vinorelbine, also known as Navelbine, because there is no projected date on when it'll be available. 

Two of the largest pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Teva Canada have stopped producing for two reasons: lack of raw material and also for business reasons.

Carlo Berardi is a local pharmacist who says he sees shortages regularly.

"I think this winter we saw a classic problem where EpiPens were not available, which lasted about four to five months, and now we're dealing with other molecules that are coming up as back-ordered or unavailable," said Berardi.

Recent survey results from the Canadian Pharmacists Association show the same thing.

"It's becoming very annoying. Every day we're dealing with multiple. It's consuming a lot of my staff's time to try and manage this problem. I'd rather be filling prescriptions and talking to patients about their medication, then sending out faxes to doctors and trying to find alternative therapy," said Berardi.

Dr. Pitre says this new reality is making her and her colleagues experts in dealing with drug shortages and she adds that patients do not need to be concerned.

In the meantime, pharmacists like Berardi are calling on the federal government to develop an action plan  to better support frontline healthcare providers.