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Kids medication supply could take months to return to normal: Pharmacist

Emergency shipments of children's pain and fever medicine imported by the federal government should hit store shelves in the coming weeks, but supplies could remain limited for months, says a local pharmacy.

THUNDER BAY — Federal efforts to secure emergency shipments of children’s pain and fever medicine will put bottles back on shelves in a matter of weeks, but supply could remain limited until the spring or summer, says a local pharmacist.

The federal government said Friday it had secured over a million bottles of children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen products for importation amid a national shortage, with some shipments having already arrived.

The shortage comes amid a surge in respiratory infections including the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 that’s putting severe pressure on Ontario hospitals.

John-Paul Federico, a pharmacist with Janzen’s Pharmacy, said shelves have been bare for months.

“It’s been terrible here — we haven’t had any supply of children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen since August,” he said. “There’s been a complete backorder, no supply from our two wholesalers. And that’s been the case all over the city, from what I understand.”

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen this in my 20 years or so of practice.”

The imported supply should hit store shelves in the coming weeks, Federico said, but he expects supply to remain limited until the spring or summer.

“The supply will improve, but it may take six months,” he said. “Once the demand dies down a bit, manufacturers could outpace that demand, then the supply will go back to normal.”

Janzen’s will likely keep the medication behind the counter and impose a per-household limit until supplies stabilize, to ensure as many people as possible who need the meds can get them, Federico said.

In the meantime, there are some alternatives available, though none are ideal, he added.

“Generally I’ve recommended they use the adult tablet and take a fraction of it based on the child’s weight. That should be done with caution, with the advice of their pharmacist.”

The shortages occurred after an unusual early spike of respiratory infections in the summer, which depleted supply ahead of the more serious current surge of infections. Domestic suppliers have been unable to keep up.

Some experts have said a rush by parents to stockpile the medication in the face of shortages may have worsened the situation.

The situation has prompted parents to look south of the border, where supply remains strong.

A representative for Ryden’s Border Store said the company has put in orders for children’s pain and fever medication to meet the demand from Canadian visitors, but said supplies are vanishing almost as soon as they arrive.

An order of 60 bottles sold out in a day and a half last week, she said.

Other Canadian parents are placing their own orders online from American suppliers to pick up at Ryden’s, she added.

Even further south in Duluth, the products are becoming difficult to find, she reported.

Border Giant, a Thunder Bay-based cross-border delivery service, announced earlier this month it would waive its normal fees for children’s ibuprofen and acetaminophen-based products, aside from a nominal 50-cent charge.

Ian Kaufman

About the Author: Ian Kaufman

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