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Parents, critics want action on kids' pain medication shortage ahead of flu season

TORONTO — Critics and parents are calling for action to address an ongoing shortage of some kids’ pain and fever medications ahead of flu season and a potential new COVID-19 wave.
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Empty shelves of children's pain relief medicine are seen at a Toronto pharmacy, Wednesday, August 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joe O'Connal

TORONTO — Critics and parents are calling for action to address an ongoing shortage of some kids’ pain and fever medications ahead of flu season and a potential new COVID-19 wave. 

Federal Conservative health critic Michael Barrett says the government has failed to do enough to ensure adequate supplies of children’s medications containing acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

He wants Ottawa to employ emergency tools that allow the importation of foreign medications that comply with Canadian regulations, noting that was already done with inhalers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal health minister said yesterday that Health Canada was “obviously concerned” about supply issues that for months have sent many parents scrambling to find products including kids' liquid Tylenol and Advil.

Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said his department has been in touch with manufacturers, pharmacists and provincial and territorial governments and he cautioned Canadians against stockpiling drugs, insisting "the situation is under relative control.”

Still, many parents fear what lies ahead if the problem is not addressed soon, with Calgary mother Tara Collins noting she struggled to find medications when her sons fell ill last month and is running out of her own supply.

"(I'm) very concerned knowing I won't be able to find the medicine my children will need to get through that cold, flu or even if we get COVID again,” said Collins, who has three children. 

Becca Travadi, also from Calgary, said she resorted to non-medicinal treatments when her six-year-old recently fell sick and is uncertain what the fall and winter season could bring.

"It's terrifying, like, I don't know what you can do," said Travadi, who expects more illnesses to circulate in schools now that masks are largely off.

"It's getting to a point where parents are worrying."

Mina Tadrous, assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, says there needs to be more clarity and communication on supply chain issues and timelines.

But he says resorting to emergency imports, as suggested by Barrett, is a step too far.

"You can't use that for every drug," says Tadrous. 

"I know it's frustrating for everyone, but it's not that dire. We still have so many other options and there's still drugs in the system. It's just not on all the shelves.... Realistically this is probably not the drug you want to pull all the levers for."

-With files from Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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