Some kids’ pain meds are in short supply, but pharmacists say no prescription is needed

Pharmacists say Ontario pharmacies are facing shortages of common children’s pain relievers amid sporadic supply outages across the country.

They assure parents that they can still get liquid Tylenol or Advil without a prescription, and also point out that there are alternatives for fever and pain management.

Jen Belcher, vice president of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, says the province is experiencing a “widespread” shortage of over-the-counter infant pain relievers containing acetaminophen, known by the brand name Tylenol.

But Belcher says that if you can’t find your child’s favorite cherry-flavored syrup on the shelves, there are other formulations that may work.

She says pharmacists can dispense liquid acetaminophen from regular bottles without a prescription, and chewable tablets are available for children who tolerate them.

Barry Power, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Pharmacists Association, says supply shortages are concentrated in urban centers in Ontario, but there have been reports of shortages in specific communities in other parts of Canada that are also dealing with high activity. of the illness.

While supply chain disruptions have contributed to the problem, an unexpected summer spike in the circulation of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, appears to be driving strong consumer demand, Power said.

Drugmakers are ramping up production to make these pain relievers available again come fall cold and flu season, he added.

As media reports have fueled unfounded concerns that children’s pain relievers now require a doctor’s note, Power warned parents not to panic buy.

“We really want to reiterate that you don’t need a prescription,” Power said. “Let’s not take people to doctors’ offices and pharmacies with prescriptions if they don’t have to.”

Two children’s hospitals in Ontario have taken steps to maintain supplies of liquid Tylenol and Advil for incoming patients and are helping to find solutions for children being discharged.

In a letter to caregivers earlier this week, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children said healthcare workers would provide prescriptions for the liquid form of acetaminophen.

Some retailers may have these over-the-counter medications in stock, while others may only have large bottles that must be dispensed by a pharmacist, SickKids said in a statement Tuesday following news coverage of the memo.

“Dear Caregiver letters are routinely distributed to patients and families,” SickKids said. “The letter was not intended as a recommendation to the general public.”

In Ottawa, CHEO said it was among pediatric health centers that felt pressure on supplies of liquid acetaminophen and the generic version of Advil, ibuprofen.

The hospital encouraged parents to ask their pharmacist about alternatives for fever and pain management, spokesman Paddy Moore said in an email.

The maker of Tylenol said its children’s products are still available in stores and online.

“We continue to experience increased consumer-driven demand and are taking all possible steps to ensure product availability,” Johnson & Johnson said.

A spokesman for Food, Health and Consumer Products Canada, an industry group that counts Johnson & Johnson as a member, said there are “spots” in Canada where there have been shortages, but downplayed the severity of the problem.

“In many cases, if there is a shortage at a particular pharmacy, parents looking for that product can go to a secondary pharmacy and often find it without much of a problem,” said Anthony Fuchs.

As Canadians have emerged from COVID-19 lockdowns, there is a high demand for cold and flu medications, said Michelle Wasylyshen, a spokeswoman for the Retail Council of Canada.

There have been ongoing shortages of certain pain relievers in recent months, with some places being hit harder than others, Wasylyshen said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 17, 2022.

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