Are you worried about a shortage of children’s medicines? Here’s what you need to know

Amid a nationwide shortage of children’s pain and fever medications, Health Canada was due to speak with manufacturers on Thursday to discuss ways to increase supply.

Across the country, parents noticed empty shelves where they hoped to find pediatric acetaminophen or ibuprofen products, such as liquid Tylenol and Advil, or chewable tablets.

Conflicting advice from health organizations in recent days has led to confusion over how to buy the products and raised concerns about possible panic buying.

Pharmacists and other health organizations are urging the public not to hoard medications, as there are rescue options available and pharmacists can offer personalized treatment advice for children.

Do you have questions or an experience to share regarding the shortage of medicines for children? Email [email protected]

Do I need a prescription?

No, you do not need a prescription for children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen products. These are over-the-counter drugs, but the current shortage means they might not be on the shelves in some stores.

If a parent is unable to find the medications, they should speak with a pharmacist, who can help by:

  • Dispensing a small amount from a larger stock bottle.
  • Composition of a personalized dose from basic ingredients.
  • Advise how to administer the correct dose to their child from an adult product.

Pharmacists are experts in customizing medications for patients and can easily do so on demand, said Bertrand Bolduc, president of the Order of Pharmacists of Quebec.

“We have access to the active ingredients, we have recipes, we know how to mask the taste of this drug, so if things go wrong, we’ll make it ourselves,” he told CBC Radio. Dawn Montreal.

It would be up to an individual pharmacy to decide whether to charge dispensing fees for drugs from a stock bottle or for compounding drugs, several pharmacists told CBC News.

WATCH | Don’t stockpile medicine for children, parents urged:

Pharmacists urge not to panic buy over shortage of painkillers for children

If parents are unable to find children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen products on the shelves, they should talk to a pharmacist about other options, says Barry Power of the Canadian Pharmacists Association.

Why do people talk about prescriptions if they are not necessary?

On Monday, Toronto’s SickKids Hospital informed parents and caregivers of its patients that they would now require a prescription for children’s take-home acetaminophen or ibuprofen products, due to the nationwide shortage.

However, on Tuesday the hospital clarified that advice, saying it ‘recommended’ a prescription ‘to help ensure access’ to larger bottles of stock from a pharmacy, adding that its original message was not intended for the general public.

According to the Ontario Pharmacists Association, a prescription can be useful because it tells the pharmacist the right amount of medicine to dispense to each child and the dose to put on the label, based on their age and weight. . That said, a prescription is not required.

Pharma organizations say prescriptions aren’t needed for children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen products, after a memo from Toronto’s SickKids Hospital to parents and caregivers of its patients caused confusion . (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

Can my child take adult acetaminophen or ibuprofen?

Maybe, but parents should seek advice from a pharmacist on the right dosage for their child, said Jamie Wigston, a pharmacist at the West End Medicine Center in New Westminster, British Columbia, and president of the BC Pharmacy Association.

Older children may be able to swallow part of an adult tablet, while for younger children a tablet may need to be crushed and mixed with food, such as applesauce, or a pharmacist can prepare a personalized liquid.

“There are certainly plenty of options, although some products that most parents are used to aren’t available,” Wigston said.

Can I give my child expired pediatric medicines?

Speak to a pharmacist before going down this route, said Barry Power, editor of the Canadian Pharmacists Association.

“Many factors come into play when you make a decision about using expired drugs,” he said.

Why is there a shortage now?

Pharmacists in parts of Canada have reported running out of over-the-counter medicines used to treat fevers, colds and flu – for both children and adults – in recent months as pandemic measures have been lifted and Canadians have resumed their daily activities, resulting in further virus spread.

Pharmacists say there have been intermittent shortages of pain and fever medication, as well as cold and flu medication, for several months. Here, empty shelves of cough and cold medicine are pictured in Surrey, British Columbia, on May 27. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“There is an increased demand for [medications] for the flu and colds, in general, and that demand has been quite high over the past few months. The demand far outstrips the supply,” said Michael Fougere, CEO of the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan.

Manufacturers have also faced supply chain issues throughout the pandemic.

The maker of Advil Haleon, a division of pharmaceutical giant GSK Canada, said it was facing shortages of raw materials, packaging and labour.

“We are working tirelessly with our suppliers, manufacturing partners and the government to resolve these issues and return to inventory levels aligned with current demand,” the company told CBC News in a statement.

What are we doing to solve the shortage?

Most of Canada’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen products are made in Canada, and manufacturers have given assurances that their facilities are “operating at maximum capacity,” Power said.

Neither Haleon nor Tylenol and Motrin maker Johnson & Johnson responded to questions about whether they were able to further increase domestic production or redirect product to Canada from overseas.

Empty shelves.
If parents see empty store shelves, like these, pictured at a pharmacy in Summerside, PEI, on Thursday, they should talk to a pharmacist about other options, including getting there are drugs to dispense from a stock bottle or compounds from basic ingredients. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Power told CBC News that his organization will participate in a supply meeting with Health Canada and manufacturers on Thursday afternoon.

A Health Canada spokesperson said Thursday that discussions are underway about the extent of the shortage and ways to alleviate it. A day earlier, the agency said “regulatory action to expedite resupply” was possible, but gave no further details.

One potential solution, Power said, is to ask Health Canada to allow the sale of identical drugs from other countries until the shortage is resolved, as it did with Spanish-labeled inhalers during a shortage in 2020.

Will there be a shortage of adult drugs?

There are no signs that adult acetaminophen and ibuprofen products are in short supply, Power said.

These products are made by more companies, which means there are more brands available, including generic products.

Everyone says don’t panic, but do I still need to stock up?

Absolutely not, say pharmacists, who oppose repeating a scenario like the toilet paper hoarding of early 2020.

“What’s available on any given day may change from day to day or week to week, but some products still exist,” said Tim Smith, Winnipeg pharmacist and pharmacy practice advisor. for Pharmacists Manitoba.

“Pharmacists are experts in helping solve drug shortage problems [and] will help you find the right medicine for your child.”

Some pharmacies have preemptively moved their remaining stock of pediatric pain and fever products behind their counters to discourage panic buying, Power noted, and customers who encounter empty shelves should speak with a pharmacist to see if the medication is still available, and what the alternatives are.

When will the shortage end?

Haleon and Johnson & Johnson did not respond to questions about when their products would be more readily available in Canada.

Some pharmacists told CBC News that they can no longer order children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen from the companies’ warehouses and that there are no scheduled return dates for the products.

A seven-year-old girl receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto on January 13. Parents should make sure their children’s vaccines are up to date to prevent illness when school starts back to school, says Canadian Pharmacists Association editor Barry Power. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Power warned there could be a new spike in illnesses when children return to school next month, which could put further pressure on the already limited supply.

He urged parents to make sure their children’s vaccinations against childhood illnesses are up to date, to keep them as healthy as possible.

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