Tylenol Shortage 2022 Canada: The real reason for the Children’s Tylenol shortage

Kim Mackay has resorted to giving her 11-year-old son expired children’s Tylenol desperate to ease his pain.

The 44-year-old mother and her husband scoured the aisles of at least 10 pharmacies in Vancouver and Burnaby in British Columbia in search of the pain medication for their child’s pancreatitis but could not find the product on shelves.

Credit: TheStar.com

After friends, also on the look out, came back empty-handed, Mackay posted a plea for help on Facebook.

“I managed to get some expired Tylenol from somebody, and another person had gone down to the U.S. in the last month and brought back a big pack of Tylenol so I have that too,” Mackay said, adding that she currently has enough medicine for another week or so. After that, she’s resigned to repeating her search.

“It has been stressful on top of my child’s illness but I’m grateful for the people who have helped,” Mackay said.

Drugstores nationwide have been grappling since May with supply shortages of over-the-counter medications for children containing acetaminophen (also known by the brand name Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil) due to heightened demand and supply chain constraints.

“After two-years of social distancing, kids, adolescents, even young adults are getting exposed again to regular viruses,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician in Toronto, adding that a resurgence of colds and flus was expected after lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

“Kids normally would have a certain level of immunity when they’re being exposed to viruses. But we’re seeing a general increase and kids getting sicker than they normally would have because of the last two years of social distancing,” said Chakrabarti.

Supply of pain relievers for children has been especially impacted by unprecedented demand driven by an uptick of cold and flu viruses as well, treatment for milder COVID-19 symptoms is impacting the supply, according to the Ontario Pharmacists Association.

“We have seen higher transmission of respiratory illnesses such as coughs, colds and COVID-19 since the relaxation of public health precautions,” said Jen Belcher, vice-president of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. “Manufacturers have been unable to keep up with the high demand for all these products,” she added.

The Retail Council of Canada, which deals with supply chain issues on behalf of retailers across Canada, said overall demand is outpacing production for children’s cold and flu medications.

“Retailers are experiencing rolling shortages,” said Retail Council of Canada spokesperson Michelle Wasylyshen. Staffing shortages at the manufacturing level are also impacting production, she added.

These drug shortages are primarily consumer-driven, said Anthony Fuchs, a spokesperson for Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada, the national trade association representing Canada’s food, beverage and consumer goods manufacturer which includes pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson Inc., the maker of Tylenol, as a member.

While there are staffing shortages among all members, they “have not been identified to me by companies making these types of products as an issue,” said Fuchs. “These companies have increased production of the products that they’re providing but particularly when it comes to children’s medication, we’re seeing increases in demand that are running close to 20 to 40 per cent above historical highs,” Fuchs said.

When asked about shortages, Johnson & Johnson confirmed that it is continuing “to experience increased consumer-driven demand.”

“We are taking all possible measures to ensure product availability,” the email said.

Dr. Rupert Kaul, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, said demand could also be spiking because people are stock piling the drugs.

In August, Health Canada in a twitter post urged Canadians not to buy more acetaminophen and ibuprofen medications for children than necessary to prevent drug shortages.

“It may well be that people are panic-buying children’s Tylenol in the same way we were panic-buying toilet paper at the start of the pandemic without any true increase in use,” Kaul said.

He pointed out that acetaminophen can be made in certain pharmacies on-site, so there isn’t any worry that drug stores will run out of it, he said.

“If we can rein in any panic buying, it will reduce the pressure on those supplies so the people who need them will be able to access them,” Kaul said.

About the Author: Ghada Alsharif is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star.


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