LAKELAND - With a new school season beginning and the unavoidable spreading of germs, parents looking to stock up on children's pain medication might be out of luck when visiting pharmacies in the Lakeland region.
A national shortage of children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen)—medications that are used to treat pain and inflammation—has been a growing concern, and has been impacting the Lac La Biche area for several months, said Caryl Tamara, Loblaw’s Pharmacy Manager at Brighton’s Your Independent Grocer.
“It’s been more than three months now the national shortage of children's Tylenol and Advil,” has been happening due to a manufacturing shortage and demand, Tamara said. Going into the new school year this fall and with the flu season right around the corner, the shortage may cause challenges for parents and caregivers, she explained.
“Especially now that kids are going back to school, it’s almost fall time and the flu season is coming, a lot of parents and caregivers are impacted by the shortage,” which affects both generic and name-brand drugs.
Currently, the over-the-counter medication, which is normally available in chewable tablets and the liquid varieties for children under 11, are limited. Loblaws pharmacies in the province are working to provide alternative options for parents, which includes offering partial adult dosages to circumvent the challenge, said Tamara.
“I got a memo from my company that even with the shortage now—with the chewable tablets and the suppositories—with the pharmacist guidance, we can give them the adult tablets either half or quarter depending on their weight and their age,” she said.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association indicates no prescription is needed for children’s Advil and Tylenol supplies across the country. Throughout the shortage, the national association says parents with concerns should reach out to their pharmacists for support, because they are the experts.
“With the high demand for cold and flu products for kids over the summer, some parts of the country might see more limited supply of certain products. Pharmacists navigate drug shortages every day and are well-positioned to help their patients with solutions and alternatives.”
Challenge for parents
For some parents who rely on relieving their children’s pain symptoms with the medication, not being able to find the medication on store shelves when it is needed is “scary,” says Andrea Ulliac, a mother of two in Lac La Biche.
“The Advil and Tylenol shortage could be very hard on parents who are not able to access it for their children that truly need it. I don't give my kids meds very often but when they need it and are fevered I would be scared not to have access, as a high fever could result in convulsions which is very scary.”
While pharmacists are recommending smaller dosages of the adult version, Ulliac says that can present problems, especially for families who may need them in emergencies and only have gel forms, for example.
“I know we can do a smaller dose of the adult medication if the kids are old enough but when kids are five and under that does not work. Plus, for adults that buy Advil gel caps, you can't break them in half for smaller doses.”
Many parents and caregivers have voiced their concerns with pharmacists and medical professionals, and the anxiety is a challenge, Tamara said.
“There is a lot of anxiety and fear because these medications are essentially essential for them. For the kids, their comfort and as a painkiller. This shortage brings a lot of anxiety and fear to caregivers.”
Ultimately, providers are doing their best to find solutions, she explained. Currently, Loblaws is working toward buying liquid dosages in bulk, in order to divvy out smaller portions to consumers that do not require a prescription, the pharmacist said.
“Loblaws has been trying to get a generic Tylenol in the liquid form in bigger pack sizes and then that way we can repackage it into smaller quantities. So we can order them from our warehouse and repackage them. It’s available for the general public as well,” but every pharmacy's response may very, she added.
Moving forward, parents should visit medical professionals for options and answers to their questions or concerns, Tamara added.