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Calgary pharmacist hopes secured supply of children’s pain, fever medication eases demand

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A Calgary pharmacist is welcoming the Alberta Government’s procurement of five million bottles of children’s pain and fever medication as demand skyrockets and pharmacies struggle to fill their shelves.

“I think the government is doing its best, so I think they should keep working and bring more stock,” said Mubeen Sadiq, pharmacist and owner of the Pharmedic Pharmacy on Macleod Trail S.W.

Sadiq said right now, his pharmacy is managing with the supply it has, but he would still like to see more.

“We have about 15 bottles sitting here. We have generic Tylenol, we have brand Tylenol,” he said.

Sadiq’s pharmacy is also able to do compounding, meaning it can customize and make its own medication — a process many other qualified pharmacies have turned to as they deal with supply shortages.

CTV News spoke to 10 pharmacies in Calgary on Tuesday.

About half say they have some supply, while the rest say they have nothing and don’t know when they’ll get more.

On Tuesday, Premier Danielle Smith and Health Minister Jason Copping announced their government has secured five million bottles of children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen that will be distributed across the province and any extra will be shared with the rest of the country.

The supplier, Turkey-based Atabay Pharmaceutical and Fine Chemicals, has sold to dozens of markets in Europe and around the world.

Health Canada still needs to approve the medication.

“Once approvals are in place, which should only be a few weeks, the medication will be sent to us in a number of shipments. When a shipment is received, the bottles will be available for ordering by pharmacies across the province and distributed within a couple days,” Copping said.

Just last month, Health Canada began importing and distributing one million bottles of children’s pain reliever medication to hospitals, pharmacies and other retailers across the country.

“There is now a supply of Tylenol in the province and pharmacists are predominantly mostly keeping it behind the counter so that they can interact with each parent or patient that is seeking it and do proper patient assessment,” said Margaret Wing, CEO of the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association.

However, Wing says it’s still not enough to meet the demand here and across the country, but she hopes this new procurement will be.

The province is expecting to pay a premium for the five million bottles and will subsidize the cost so that pharmacies can sell them at the “average retail price.”

The total cost to taxpayers hasn’t been set.

“We want to make sure parents have access to the medication that they need because if (children) can’t break the fever, they end up in the hospital rooms and that is what’s causing the pressure on our hospitals, not here but across the country,” Smith said.

Some, including the Alberta NDP, call this a step in the right direction, but say more needs to be done.

Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician in Calgary, said the medication will be a relief to families, but it won’t ease the pressure on hospitals.

“Kids are being admitted to the hospital because they’re sick. They’re sick with sepsis, they’re sick with respiratory failure, they can’t breathe and no amount of painkiller or anti-fever medication is going to fix that,” he told CTV News.

A political commentator says the Alberta government is also showing what it can do without Ottawa.

“This could fit into that larger narrative of the Alberta government sort of talking about what Alberta can and should be doing for itself and sort of being critical of the federal government for not being able to accomplish as much,” said Lori Williams.

“I don’t think parents care which government is acting to help treat illnesses and their children – all they care about is the health and welfare of their children.”  

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