Parents looking for children's Tylenol and ibuprofen find empty shelves

Parents looking for children’s Tylenol and ibuprofen find empty shelves


People looking for over-the-counter medications for their sick children often find shelves sparse or empty as a spike in respiratory illness pushes pediatricians and emergency rooms to their limits.

Usual supplies of fever and pain medications, such as liquid acetaminophen and ibuprofen recommended for children with RSV, influenza or coronavirus, have not kept up with demand in recent weeks in pockets. countries hardest hit by the disease outbreak.

Unlike in Canada where the government has issued emergency orders to address a shortage of acetaminophen and ibuprofen, commonly known by the brand names Tylenol and Advil, and similar products, US manufacturers and retailers have pointed out that supplies are expected to rebound within weeks. On the prescription side, increased demand for the antibiotic amoxicillin has caused shortages in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe.

In the meantime, pediatricians say they fear limited access to medication could lead to increased urgent care and emergency visits as parents struggle to keep sick children comfortable.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Kristina Powell, a pediatrician in Williamsburg, Va., and president of the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It is the result of the ‘triple half’. The parents run to Walmart or Target, the shelves are empty. … It’s going to be a long fall and winter of viral infections.

A crop of flu-like illnesses, which includes RSV, hit the South and Southeast hard a month ago, federal data shows., and these diseases slowly progressed westward. In mid-November, Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee reported the highest incidence of disease, while levels remained very high in Virginia and DC, followed closely by Maryland, according to data tracked. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kylie Moriarty, 30, of Buffalo, Mo., searched her local Walmart for Tylenol or ibuprofen to treat her sick 9-year-old daughter and found only empty shelves. It seemed strange, she said, because last week she had no trouble buying the same products for her 2-year-old son in a carousel of illnesses affecting families with young children.

“I was very frustrated that it was 2022 and we couldn’t keep something in stock for parents to help their children get better,” she said in a phone interview. “It makes me want to cry, almost, because they are my children.”

She and her husband called other pharmacies looking for medicine to soothe the girl and found no guaranteed availability.

“When they are sick, there is not much you can do to love and cuddle them. So when there’s no medicine or something you can give them…it’s hard,” Moriarty said.

feel helpless, the couple gave up and cautiously shared their youngest child’s more concentrated medication with the eldest, which seemed to help. Just as they were beginning to relax, their little boy came home from daycare with a fever. Moriarty plans to schedule an appointment with his pediatrician for treatment – and samples to take home.

The ordeal reminded him of the height of the pandemic when supply chain issues left consumers scrambling for toilet paper and other basics.

Generic varieties play an important role in the over-the-counter convenience medicine market, and this industry operates on such meager profit margins that companies typically lack the capacity to ramp up production in the short term, according to chain experts. ‘supply. This left the shelves bare for the early days of the pandemic.

The same dynamic is playing out now as RSV, influenza and coronavirus strike simultaneously, causing sporadic shortages of commonly used ibuprofen and Tylenol in some hospitals and retail stores.

The extent of these shortages are unclear. The Food and Drug Administration has not reported any shortages of fever or pain medications. Drugmakers, pharmacists and industry organizations say there are no manufacturing constraints and expect supplies to rebound within weeks.

The University of Utah’s Drug Information Service, which tracks drug shortages, received its first report of a shortage of liquid ibuprofen — usually for children — on Monday and quickly confirmed it. from several manufacturers. Most drugs tracked by the service are purchased in bulk by hospitals, but some formulations had over-the-counter labels. Erin Fox, director of the department, said it was impossible to know how widespread the retail shortages were given the variety of branded releases at the store.

“There are definitely distribution and supply chain issues,” she said, like a company that can’t hire enough drivers. “These shortages appear to be primarily a spike in demand and should resolve fairly quickly,” she added.

Until then, chain stores and independent pharmacies face the unpredictability of high demand and uncertain supplies.

Martin McCarthy struck at 5 p.m. Wednesday when he stopped at Brookville Pharmacy in Chevy Chase, Md., looking for liquid Motrin for his 10-year-old son, who likely caught a bug at school .

Pharmacy stock of children’s fever medication ran out after busy two weeks with parents and grandparents stopping to buy Tylenol or Motrin for little ones with colds, RSV, flu and other viruses.

As of Wednesday night, there were only three boxes of chewable generic ibuprofen, two boxes of chewable generic acetaminophen, and six boxes of acetaminophen suppository left. Other parents looked down the aisle for a liquid fever reliever and a fever reliever for kids under 3, only to come away empty-handed.

McCarthy scanned the cold medicine aisle for a few minutes and called home to confirm that his son would tolerate the grape-flavored chewable tablets instead of the liquid Motrin he was used to.

“It’s surprising because it’s basically completely out,” he said. “And that’s just generic.”

A Walgreens spokeswoman said McCarthy’s experience was typical. Even if their usual choice of medication is unavailable due to high demand, parents can usually find an alternative.

“Although the demand for over-the-counter pediatric medicines has increased, Walgreens is prepared and able to continue to meet the needs of our customers and patients. We work with our diverse set of suppliers and distributors to ensure our patients have the products they need most,” Walgreen spokeswoman Zoe Krey said in a statement.

Martha Welman, pediatrician and medical director of Neighborhood Health, a primary care provider serving low-income and underinsured patients in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax, said staff sometimes call pharmacies to find medications for patients. – a process that takes time at a busy time.

“If it’s between helping someone find medicine or seeing a sick child, we have to make that choice. We’re all compromising right now,” she said.

Perrigo, an Irish manufacturer of over-the-counter products, said “shortages are occurring in a number of the markets we supply” due to high demand. The company increased production of fever and pain medications by 46% through October compared to a year ago, and increased shipments at a similar pace.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents companies making over-the-counter drugs, said some parts of the country are seeing an increase in pediatric illnesses, but there is not a “widespread shortage here in the United States. “painkillers for children.

“We understand this may be frustrating for some parents who are unable to quickly locate these products from their pharmacy or regular retailer due to limited stock-outs at some stores,” the association said in a statement. statement, but she stressed the importance of asking for medicines and not stockpiling them, which could lead to widespread shortages.

Elizabeth Murray, a pediatric emergency physician at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, NY, said from a shortage of beds to overwhelmed emergency rooms, the last thing parents need is another hurdle. But until the early and aggressive onset of respiratory disease subsides, healthcare providers and parents have no choice but to get through it together.

“Everyone wishes they had one thing to blame and there isn’t just one thing to blame,” she said. “It’s happening for a variety of reasons and we’ll get through it and we’ll be fine.”

Sick children fill the hospitals. But there are not enough beds.

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