Go to content

Assessing the impact of the slow-release oral morphine drug shortages in Ontario, Canada: a population-based time series analysis


Background — Slow-release oral morphine (SROM) is used to manage pain, and as opioid agonist treatment (OAT). Between 2017 and 2021 in Canada, several drug shortages occurred for Kadian© (SROM-24). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of these shortages on people’s ability to remain on this medication.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective population-based time series analysis of SROM-24 dispensed between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2021, in Ontario, Canada. Using interventional autoregressive integrated moving average models (ARIMA) models, we evaluated the association between SROM-24 drug shortages and treatment discontinuation. Analyses were also stratified by the SROM-24 indication (pain or OAT).

Results — We identified 22,479 SROM-24 recipients, of which one-third (33.9%) were aged 65 or above and just over half (51.9%) were female. In our primary analysis of monthly SROM-24 discontinuation, we observed a significant sustained monthly increase following the shortages in November 2019 (+0.29%/month; 95% CI: 0.16%, 0.43%; p < .001) with significant sudden, temporary changes following the shortages in March 2020 (+2.00%; 95% CI: 0.95%, 3.05%; p < .001), July 2021 (+3.53%; 95% CI: 2.20%, 4.86%; p < .001), and August 2021 (+4.98%; 95% CI: 3.49%, 6.47%; p < .001). Similar results were observed in our stratified analyses, with sustained high rates of discontinuation among people accessing SROM-24 as OAT.

Conclusions — The SROM-24 shortages resulted in significant treatment disruptions across all recipients. These findings have important implications for those with few treatment alternatives, including people using SROM-24 as OAT who are at risk of adverse outcomes following treatment disruptions.



Ledlie S, Tadrous M, McCormack D, Campbell T, Leece P, Kleinman RA, Kolla G, Besharah J, Smoke A, Sproule B, Gomes T. Int J Drug Policy. 2923; 118:104119. Epub 2023 Jul 8.

View Source

Contributing ICES Scientists

Associated Sites