By Shady Salah
Canadian families have been suffering from a severe shortage of both acetaminophen and ibuprofen products, especially those related to children.
The current lack of availability of these products is being driven by significantly increased demand due to a surge in respiratory illnesses across the country. However, questions remain high about the reasons standing behind such a crisis, and still no move from the government to tackle such a problem.
When we searched for more about the core of the problem, we found that answers are the same and been attributed to a combination of supply chain issues, as well as heightened consumer demands due to what drug makers have called an “unprecedented” Canadian cold and flu season.”
A combination of factors has created the shortage, according to information from epidemiologists, emergency room doctors and Health Canada officials: a lack of raw ingredients to make the drugs has combined with an uptick in respiratory viruses fuelled by the relaxed COVID measures. And panic buying is depleting stock as soon as it comes in, pharmacists told Media in Toronto, who noted also that Tylenol was in short supply because the boxes lacked french instructions.
The solution some parents are turning to is the emergency room: a place where doctors say families are spending hours waiting to be seen for colds and viruses so they can get pediatric pain relievers usually found on pharmacy shelves. And many others tried to travel long distances to buy a bottle of fever medication, others said some pharmacists are helping them with “combinations”.
Since the summer, infant and children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen products have been in limited supply in retail outlets, pharmacies and hospitals across Canada.
As of November 29, over 1.1 million bottles of children’s pain and fever medications have been imported into Canada to help meet the soaring demand, according to Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPA). This is helping to supplement the production of Canadian supply, which is at a record high, with some companies producing about 100% more than they were at the same time in 2021.
CPhA has been involved in regular discussions with Health Canada and other key stakeholders to help address the situation and represent pharmacy professionals. They have compiled a number of resources on this page to help support pharmacy teams as they manage this shortage across Canada.
While the government said a new supply of acetaminophen is coming, it did not say how much or where it’s being imported from. The agency noted the meds will meet all of Canada’s standards.
“All information related to cautions and warnings, dosing directions, ingredients, and other important details will be made available in both English and French to ensure parents and caregivers clearly understand what medication they are using and how to give to their children,” Health Canada said in a written statement.
“This work is being done in parallel to obtaining the additional foreign supply.”
The agency is asking consumers to only purchase what they need to ensure other parents and caregivers have access to the medicine.