• Trevor Greenway

Flying off the shelves

Hills parents looking to keep their child’s fever down are being met with empty medicine shelves, as area pharmacies deal with a national shortage for children’s cold medication. The shortage comes at a time when COVID-19, RSV and the flu overwhelm the healthcare system. Cold and flu medication shelves at both the Brunet Pharmacy in Wakefield and the Proxim Group Pharmacy in Chelsea are empty.


“We get stock, but very little amounts and, as soon as we get some, they sell,” said Chelsea pharmacist Isabelle Ménard. “But now, we have put a limit of one per client. There are real shortages. It’s something that will last long.”


According to Ménard, the situation isn’t expected to ease for some time — even despite the federal government’s recent announcement that one million bottles of children’s cold and flu medication will hit pharmacy shelves next week.


Ménard is urging parents to use any adult cold and flu medication, such as Tylenol, which they may have in their cupboards, and to consult her dosage chart, which was posted on her pharmacy Facebook page, so that parents know how much of an adult pill to give to their child, based on age and size.


“Right now, what we do is we tell people to take regular Tylenol and crush it up and mix it with applesauce,” she said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s something we can do.”


During the interview with the Low Down, Ménard confirmed that her pharmacy is also out of regular Tylenol as well. It’s the same at Brunet in Wakefield, as the children’s medicine rack was empty, and the adult cold medications had been reduced to specialty cold meds with high doses of acetaminophen and other drugs.


The pharmacy in Masham and most pharmacies across the country are dealing with the same shortage issues.


“It’s not a problem related to making the medication, it’s a problem regarding the sickness of kids,” said Wakefield Pharmacist Sébastien Aubin of Brunet Pharmacy. “It’s having a very big impact right now. Of course we are concerned because we have to find different solutions.”


Aubin said pharmacists at Brunet have a limited number of Tylenol and other meds behind the counter that they are saving for “special cases,” where fevers are causing seizures in kids or other unstable situations. Aubin urges parents in extreme cases, where they can’t control a rising fever, to consult a pharmacist on duty for additional assistance.


Aubin added that shortages are expected to continue indefinitely.


Chief Medical Advisor for Health Canada, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said in a news conference last week that three proposals to import foreign meds had been approved and a supply of ibuprofen and acetaminophen for children has already begun to enter Canada. She said more than a million bottles have arrived, and the meds will start flowing onto pharmacy shelves by the week of Nov. 21.


“We’re continuing to identify additional sources of foreign supplies of both acetaminophen and ibuprofen,” Sharma said during a news conference Nov. 17.


Health Canada did not disclose a breakdown of how the medications would be shared across the country, saying the foreign supply would be “distributed equitably” based on where there is the greatest need.


Ménard meanwhile offered some tips for parents struggling to keep fevers down.

“Try to cool the body down with a cool bath or cold compresses,” she said.


“It’s not fun when you’re feverish, and you’re freezing, and you have to sit in a cold bath. Just try to cool the body down.”