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'Consumer-driven demand' drives shortage of children's pain, fever meds

Calgary parents are scrambling to find pain and fever meds for their children, but drugstore shelves have been in scant supply for a little over a month.

Mehgan Johnson says her baby daughter Joella became feverish after receiving routine vaccines in September.

"I went to our normal pharmacy and they had nothing. Then I went and checked out another one, and then I checked out Costco and then I realized, oh, there's a theme here. I can't find them anywhere," she said.

Children's Tylenol and Advil — made with acetaminophen and ibuprofen — are in short supply across Canada.

The products are dosed for small children to help manage pain and fever.

Johnson was able to find some liquid pain meds for her child from friends, but says the situation was scary for her as a new mom.

Another Calgary parent has also been unable to buy the over-the-counter drugs in recent weeks.

"Doctors recommend that if they're teething, give them Tylenol, and there's no Tylenol. Then it's tough to know how to make that pain go away for them," said Nicole Goss, mom of toddler Olivia.


Tylenol producer Johnson & Johnson (J&J) sent CTV News a statement, which reads:

"We continue to experience increased consumer-driven demand with certain products and markets. We are taking all possible measures to ensure product availability."

A Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada spokesperson says demand is up 20-40 per cent from historic highs, while autumn's typical cold and flu season is also adding pressure.

The spokesperson says J&J and Haleon, which makes Advil, have begun ramping up production to meet the outsized demand.


Some Alberta pharmacies with an approved lab facility are able to compound children's pain meds by mixing pure acetaminophen and ibuprofen with a suspension fluid and flavouring.

It’s part of a short-term solution from the Alberta College of Pharmacy, which should cease when commercial products become available.

Pharmacists warn against makeshift medications made at home from available adult-dosed products.

"We want to be careful with dosing. Depending on the children's age and weight, there can be different dosing available for the child," said Randy Howden, pharmacist and owner of the Crowfoot Medicine Shoppe & Compounding Centre.

"The important piece is making sure we get the right dose and that we are doing something that’s going to be safe."

Howden says it’s unclear when Alberta pharmacies will be able to restock the shelves.

"Right now, our warehouse is telling us there's indeterminate availability or maybe in November we'll have some stock, but that could change day to day depending on a number of factors," he said.

He also recommends purchasing one item of compound medication at a time, as stockpiling could only make the problem worse.

Health Canada told CTV News earlier this week that it is in touch with manufacturers, pharmacists and provincial health leaders and is reviewing a request from a group of Conservative MP's to import foreign supply. Top Stories

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