Some Relief for Drug Shortages

There has been a 300% increase in demand for children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen this year versus the same time period last year. In some cases, this increase has been driven by panic buying, but it is also related to elevated rates of respiratory illnesses, which started in the summer (typically this would not occur until late autumn). While manufacturers have increased production by about 35%, it has not been enough. On November 14, Health Canada announced that they have secured a foreign supply of children’s acetaminophen that will be allocated to Canadian hospitals, pharmacies and other retailers. More than 1 million bottles are expected to arrive within the next week. While this will address immediate demands, consumers are asked to buy only what they need, so that a supply is available to sick children when they need it.

Children’s medications for pain and fever are not the only medications where shortages are a concern. Children’s Gravol® is unavailable, as are many cough and cold products for both adults and children. If you are having difficulty locating these and other children’s medications, please speak with our pharmacists. We can calculate the appropriate amount of adult medications to use for children based on their weight and can offer some suggestions that will make it more palatable for children. We can also compound these medications, although the shelf life of compounded products is limited, so this option should be reserved for urgent needs only.

According to Health Canada, more than 800 drugs are in short supply, and of those, 23 drugs are at critically low levels. Drugs affected range from blood pressure medications to antibiotics. Drug shortages occur because of changes in demand, but also when there is a shortage of ingredients (both domestic and worldwide) that affect manufacturing, or when a medication is discontinued and there are few (if any) options to replace it.

Pharmacies have been managing drug shortages for years, but the situation has worsened since the start of COVID-19. We will always go out of our way to help. We may be able to transfer stock from another pharmacy if they do not need it for one of their patients or we can also recommend alternatives to your doctor and request a new prescription.

If you would like to look further into drug shortages in Canada, please visit the Drug Shortages Canada website.

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