Amid a nationwide shortage of pain and fever medicines for children, Health Canada is set to speak with manufacturers on Thursday to discuss ways to increase supplies.
Parents across the country have noticed empty shelves where they hope to find acetaminophen or ibuprofen products for children, such as Tylenol and Advil liquid, or chewable tablets.
Conflicting advice from health organizations in recent days has led to confusion about how to buy products and raised concerns about panic buying.
Pharmacists and other health organizations are urging the public not to stockpile medicines, as there are backup options available and pharmacists can provide individual advice for treating children.
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Do I need a prescription?
No, you do not need a prescription for acetaminophen or ibuprofen products. They are over-the-counter drugs, but current shortages mean they may not be on some store shelves.
If a parent cannot find medications, they should speak with a pharmacist who can help by:
- dispense a small amount from a larger stock bottle.
- Formulating a customized dose of essential ingredients.
- Advise how to give their children the appropriate dose of an adult product.
Pharmacists are experts at allocating medicines to patients, and they can do so easily if asked, said Bertrand Bolduc, president of the Quebec Pharmacists Syndicate.
“We have access to the active ingredients, we have recipes, and we know how to mask the taste of this drug, so if the push starts, we’ll make it ourselves,” he told CBC Radio. Dawn in Montreal.
Several pharmacists told CBC News that it is up to the individual pharmacy to decide whether to charge for dispensing the drug from a stock bottle or a combination drug.
Watch | Urging parents not to stockpile children’s medicines:
Why do people talk about prescriptions if they are not needed?
On Monday, SickKids Hospital in Toronto She advised parents and caregivers to her patients They will now need prescription acetaminophen for children or ibuprofen products for home use, due to nationwide shortages.
However, on Tuesday, the hospital Explain that advicesaying it had “recommended” a prescription “to help ensure access” to the pharmacy’s larger stock bottles, adding that its original message was not intended for the general public.
According to the Ontario Pharmacists Association, a prescription can be helpful because it tells the pharmacist how much medication to dispense for an individual child, and what dose to put on the label, based on their age and weight. However, a prescription is not mandatory.
Can my child take acetaminophen or adult ibuprofen?
It’s possible, but parents should seek advice from a pharmacist about the appropriate dosage for their children, said Jamie Wigston, a pharmacist at West End Medicine 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, the tablet may need to be crushed and mixed into food, such as applesauce, or a pharmacist can formulate a liquid meant for them.
“There are certainly a lot of options, even if certain products that parents are used to just aren’t available,” Wigston said.
Is it permissible to give my child expired pediatric medicine?
Talk with a pharmacist before going this route, said Barry Bauer, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Pharmacists Association.
“There are a lot of factors that come into play when you make a decision about using expired medications,” he said.
Why is there a shortage now?
Pharmacists in parts of Canada have reported a decline in over-the-counter medications used to treat fever, cold and flu — for both children and adults — in recent months as pandemic measures are lifted and Canadians return to daily activities, resulting in more virus spreading.
“There is a growing demand for [medications] For influenza and colds in general, this has been in very high demand for the past several months. Demand is outstripping supply by a large margin, said Michael Fouger, chief executive of the Saskatchewan Pharmacy Association.
Manufacturers have also faced supply chain issues throughout the pandemic.
Haleon, the maker of Advil, a division of drug giant GSK Canada, said it was dealing with a shortage of raw materials, packaging and labour.
“We are working tirelessly with our suppliers, manufacturing partners, and government to address these issues and return to stock levels that are in line with current demand,” the company told CBC News in a statement.
What is being done to solve the deficiency?
Most of Canada’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen products are produced domestically, Bauer said, and manufacturers have given assurances that their facilities are “operating at maximum capacity.”
Neither Haleon, nor manufacturer Tylenol and Motrin, Johnson & Johnson, responded to questions about whether they could increase their domestic production, or redirect products to Canada from abroad.
Power told CBC News that his organization will participate in a meeting on supply with Health Canada and manufacturers Thursday afternoon.
A Health Canada spokesperson said Thursday that talks are underway about the extent of the shortage and ways to mitigate it. A day earlier, the agency said “regulatory actions to speed up resupply” were possible, but gave no further details.
One potential solution, Bauer said, is to get Health Canada to allow similar drugs from other countries to be sold until the shortages are resolved, as it did with Inhalers are written in Spanish during the 2020 deficit.
Will there be a shortage of medicines for adults?
Bauer said there were no indications of a shortage of acetaminophen and ibuprofen products for adults.
These products are manufactured by more companies, which means there are more brands available, including generic ones.
Everyone says don’t panic, but should I stock up anyway?
Certainly not, say pharmacists, who urged not to repeat a scenario such as stockpiling toilet paper in early 2020.
“What is available on any given day can change from day to day, or week to week, but there are products that still exist,” said Tim Smith, a Winnipeg pharmacist and pharmacy practice advisor to Manitoba pharmacists.
Pharmacists are experts in helping deal with drug shortage issues [and] It will help you find the right medication for your child.”
Some pharmacies have proactively moved their remaining stock of children’s pain and fever products behind their counters to discourage panic buying, Bauer noted, and customers faced with empty shelves should speak with a pharmacist to see if the drug is still available, and what alternatives.
When will the shortage end?
Haleon and Johnson & Johnson did not respond to questions about when their products would be more readily available across Canada.
Some pharmacists told CBC News that they were unable to order more acetaminophen or ibuprofen products for children from the company’s warehouses, and there was no expected return date for the products.
And Bauer warned there could be a further spike in diseases when kids return to school next month, which could put more pressure on an already limited supply.
He urged parents to ensure that their children’s vaccinations against childhood diseases are up-to-date, to keep them as healthy as possible.