Cold and flu meds still in short supply in N.B., says pharmacists' association

In any other year there would be enough drugs to go around without issue, but this flu season has seen an increase in demand. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
In any other year there would be enough drugs to go around without issue, but this flu season has seen an increase in demand. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Pharmacies in the province are still dealing with high demand for several over-the-counter drugs for pain, cold and flu symptoms for children and adults.

The ultimate culprit is a "perfect cocktail" of several viruses including COVID, RSV and the seasonal flu according to Jake Reid, the executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association.

He said in any other year there would be enough drugs to go around without issue, but this flu season has seen an increase in demand which has put a "strain" on supplies.

"What I've heard from some pharmacies is when some of these medications hit the store shelves on a Wednesday they're gone by Thursday morning, or even quicker sometimes," said Reid.

Increased demand worldwide

Reid said Canada is part of a global market experiencing increased demand, so there's little pharmacies can do to increase their stock.

But he warns against panic-buying, which would only exacerbate the problem, and said patients should speak with medical professionals to determine if they even need the medicine they're looking to buy.

"If you don't require it and you already have some on hand, it's better not to purchase it. Leave it for someone else," said Reid.

"Speak to your pharmacist, speak to your doctor, speak to your nurse practitioner. Find out what it is that you require."

Submitted by the New Brunswick Pharmacists Association
Submitted by the New Brunswick Pharmacists Association

Reid said pharmacies may start limiting the amount of some medicines people can buy to maintain supply, or start putting it behind the counter.

He said there were rumours this meant pharmacists were asking for prescriptions for certain over-the-counter drugs, which is not the case.

"They want to make sure that people are purchasing it purposefully," said Reid.

"They may want to have a discussion with the patient as they come up before they purchase it, which is always good advice."

The pharmacists' association could not supply the names of specific brands that are in short supply, but said in an email, "the availability of particular brands may vary across the province at any given time."

Prevention key

Reid said one way to deal with the shortage may be to turn to traditional methods of relief, like honey and warm water for mild coughs and sore throats.

But the best advice is to take precautions to reduce the likelihood of getting sick in the first place.

"Make sure that you're up to date with your vaccines," said Reid.

"Follow public health advice, that not all of us are following now, to make sure that you're wearing your mask when you're in close proximity to others, to social distance."