Children’s medicine shortage hits community as infections rise

The nationwide shortage of children’s pain medications has hit Kahnawake, with both local pharmacies reporting high demand and low-to-nonexistent supply of the medicine as respiratory infections continue to rise in numbers.

At the Proxim pharmacy, located at the Old Malone Medical Center, the situation is stable.

“We have some chewable children’s Tylenol and ibuprofen,” said pharmacist Romy Lteif. “We keep it behind the counter and we ask people about their needs. We limit sales to one box per family.”

Lteif said the pharmacists there are instructed to gauge the clients’ needs based on a number of factors.

“We ask people why they might need it, and we try to give them the right dose to make sure people get what they need based on bodyweight,” she said.

At the community’s other pharmacy, supplies of chewable children’s pain medications are running lower.

“We’re all out of chewable children’s Tylenol, but we do have liquid acetaminophen and ibuprofen,” said Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre pharmacy technician Anne Paynter. “It’s out of stock everywhere.”

The shortage of children’s pain and fever medication has driven some parents to bring their children to hospital emergency rooms, which in turn has further clogged already-overloaded ERs.

Paynter said parents of sick children can find something to help them at the KMHC pharmacy.

“I suggest they call us and we will look after them. We are able to give them a liquid version of the medicine,” she said.

There hasn’t been any indication when the KMHC pharmacy might get more children’s Tylenol, Paynter said.

“They haven’t given us even a date yet when that might be happening,” she said.

Last week, the federal government announced it had secured new shipments of children’s pain medications from abroad.

Federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the shipments are “equivalent to months of normal supply” of analgesics, which is in addition to increased domestic production of those products.

The shortage of kids’ pain medication has been ongoing since the summer.

Last month, Health Canada approved the exceptional importation of ibuprofen from the United States and acetaminophen from Australia, to supply hospitals in Canada amid the shortages.

One way the government is doing that is through the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) plan, which will cover the cost of compounded oral liquid acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Compounded medications are prepared by a pharmacist using the same active ingredients as the manufactured drug product. Community members are advised to check with their pharmacist as needed.

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase