Surge in demand leaves some types of kids' Tylenol scarce on P.E.I.

·2 min read
Empty shelves at a Summerside pharmacy, where liquid Tylenol is normally stocked.  (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)
Empty shelves at a Summerside pharmacy, where liquid Tylenol is normally stocked. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)

Some pharmacies across Prince Edward Island have been seeing a surge in demand for children's Tylenol in the liquid form, leading to challenges in keeping the product on the shelves in some Island locations.

The problem is especially common in rural areas.

"I went to the pharmacy and I noticed the shelves were bare," said Courtney Toombs of Miscouche, whose one-year-old daughter developed a fever last week.

Toombs tried at several area pharmacies as well as online and found none of them had liquid ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Her mother scoured pharmacies in eastern P.E.I. and did manage to find a couple of bottles for Toombs.

Being without the drugs needed to treat a toddler's illness "is honestly terrifying," she said. "It's scary."

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

Demand appears to have been fuelled by reports of shortages in some other parts of the country, likely related to COVID-19, the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association told CBC News.

"We don't want people to, you know, to panic and feel they have to go out and stock up. That sometimes just feeds the problem and we end up with shortages that were not necessarily going to be there. We create our own issues because of panic buying," said Erin MacKenzie, the association's executive director.

"I don't think that we're going to run into a situation where anyone's going to have to go without. You know, the Tylenol, the Advil, Motrin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen — all of these are very effective pain and fever reducers in children," she said.

Doing the math on doses

Amos Campbell, a staff pharmacist at the Pharmasave in Montague, says there have been shortages of various medications throughout the pandemic, and this is the main one right now.

Anjuli Patil/CBC
Anjuli Patil/CBC

"A lot of the liquids are not available, so we've had to try to switch people to chewables. Or maybe the liquid that they usually get for their age group is not available, so we'll just have to dose it based on their weight," Campbell said.

MacKenzie agreed this can be a good workaround, as is using suppositories.

"We've been working every day just to try to see if there's other formulations we can get in," Campbell added of his Montague pharmacy.

Province managing its supply

A written statement from Health P.E.I. to CBC News says the province is aware of the shortage and is coping with it.

"Health P.E.I. Pharmacy Services is monitoring the liquid acetaminophen shortage and it is on the active drug shortage list," the statement said.

"To date, Health P.E.I. services have been able to manage the inventory of these products to maintain usual stock levels in patient care areas where these drugs are required, such as emergency departments and pediatric units."