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‘My child is suffering’: BC parents furious at shortage of pain relievers

Many pharmacy shelves are sitting empty
Many pharmacy shelves are empty of children’s pain medication. (Canadian Press photo)

Mission parents are scrambling to find common children’s pain relievers as pharmacy shelves remain empty.

Local Facebook pages are filled with parents begging others to share such medications as children’s Tylenol and Advil.

“My child is suffering and nobody seems to know why pharmacies are out of such a basic item,” wrote one parent. “Does anyone have any extra they could share.”

Another parent was offering to pay double the price for some Tylenol.

“I’m happy to pay extra if it will help my baby boy,” the parent wrote.

The Record visited multiple Mission pharmacies and found empty shelves for the product.

Some parents are blaming other parents for “hoarding” the pain relievers.

Health Canada says special imports of ibuprofen from the U.S. are waiting for distribution, while acetaminophen imports from Australia are imminent.

It isn’t saying how much is expected or how the stock will be split among hospitals.

Barry Power, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Pharmacists Association, told the Canadian Press that while supply chain interruptions have contributed to the problem, an unexpected summer spike in the circulation of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, seems to be driving high consumer demand, said Power.

Drug manufacturers are ramping up production to get these pain relievers back in stock come fall cold and flu season, he added.

A months-long shortage of children’s pain and fever medication has sent many parents and caregivers scouring bare shelves and swapping tips on drug sightings.

As media reports have stoked unfounded concerns that children’s pain relievers now require a doctor’s note, Power cautioned parents against making panic purchases.

“We really want to reiterate that you do not need a prescription,” said Power. “Let’s not drive people into doctors’ offices and pharmacies with prescriptions if we don’t need to.”

Some children’s hospitals have taken steps to maintain supplies of liquid Tylenol and Advil for patients who are admitted, and are helping find solutions for children who are discharged.

Tylenol’s manufacturer said its children’s products are still available in stores and online.

“We continue to experience increased consumer-driven demand and are taking all possible measures to ensure product availability,” Johnson & Johnson said.

A spokesman for Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada, an industry group that counts Johnson & Johnson as a member, said there are “pockets” of Canada where shortages have happened, but downplayed the severity of the issue.

“In many cases, if there’s a shortage at a particular pharmacy, those parents that are looking for that product are able to go to a secondary pharmacy and often find it without that much trouble,” said Anthony Fuchs.

As Canadians have emerged from COVID-19 lockdown, there is high demand for cold and flu medication, said Michelle Wasylyshen, a spokeswoman for the Retail Council of Canada.

There have been rolling shortages of certain pain relievers in recent months, and some places have been hit harder than others, said Wasylyshen.

- With additional reporting by the Canadian Press

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Chris Campbell

About the Author: Chris Campbell

I joined the Victoria News hub as an editor in 2023, bringing with me over 30 years of experience from community newspapers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
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