Local pharmacies received limited supply of children’s pain, fever medications but some already ran out

By Germain Ma

Limited supply of children's pain and fever medications have arrived at local pharmacies amid a nationwide shortage—but some have already run out. 

“We got some yesterday (Tuesday). It wasn't a large supply. We got about three packages yesterday. They're already gone,” said Michael Abdedsayed, pharmacy manager at Belmont Drugs Pharmacy in Kitchener. 

As of Wednesday morning, Apothecare Pharmacy in Kitchener had about a couple bottles of children's Tylenol, but those may go quickly.

“Previously, as we had received stock, the bottles only lasted about 24 hours or so,” said Neil Malhotra, a pharmacist and owner of Apothecare Pharmacy.

While there's relief for some families who've been able to buy medication, it appears many are still in a panic.

“Everyday, we can get from about 20 to 50 calls about this,” said Abdelsayed.

The pharmacists said it's unclear when fresh supply can be expected arrive.

Pharmacies order stock from a wholesaler.

“Every morning, we check to see if there's any available. We have reminders too so that when it comes back in stock, we're able to order it. But as to when, that's up in the air,” Abdelsayed said.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced one million bottles would arrive across Canada.

Shortly after, it also announced an additional 500,000 bottles.

“It's been in such a flux right now that we don't really know and they don't always have accurate dates on when they will be available,” Malhotra said.

Belmont Drugs Pharmacy and Apothecare Pharmacy have both received children's Tylenol but are waiting on alternative medications, such as Advil and Motrin.

Generic brands are also in short supply. 

In the meantime, pharmacists have used temporary solutions. 

“Pharmacists have done a great job from either helping manage dosage changes for older kids, figuring out ways that they can cut an adult tablet and either have it crushed in food or applesauce, something like that—or even compounding pharmacies in the area that have been able to compound Tylenol for families that have been needing it,” said Malhotra.

But, Abdelsayed pointed out risks with compounding.

“You can make mistakes. You can put too much. You can put too little, especially when it's ingested by a child. Right now, because so many kids need it, there's high risk of an error because so many compounds will be made. The way I see is if you compound 100,000 Tylenol for children, there's risk that one of them will be hurt and sent to the hospital. That's one too many,” he said.

Abdelsayed also warned parents of the danger of adjusting dosage without first asking a pharmacist for advice—including one common misconception.

“Some parents are giving infant Tylenol to children who are above the age of three. Don't necessarily give them more because the infant Tylenol is actually more concentrated. It can actually lead to an overdose if you give [children] more without calculating the dose. We're seeing that a lot,” he explained. 

To stretch supply, Belmont Drugs Pharmacy has implemented a strict one bottle per family policy, along with screening questions.

“No matter the story, unfortunately. We understand some people have several kids or another family member that needs it, but this is one of the few ways we can preserve what we have,” Adelsayed said.

Local pharmacies are attaching French information with some bottles of medication, which may have arrived from the US.

“Hopefully now that there are more bottles coming onto the market, there won't be such a big rush for people to have to come in and get them,” said Malhotra. 

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