Health Canada says it has secured more foreign supply of children’s pain medication

As parents continue to struggle to find pain and fever medications for their children amid an uptick in respiratory illnesses, Health Canada announced Monday that it has secured a foreign supply of children’s acetaminophen.

This incoming supply will be available for retail purchase, or for parents to access at community pharmacies “in the coming weeks.”

The incoming foreign acetaminophen supply is in addition to Health Canada recently approving the importation of infant and children’s ibuprofen and acetaminophen to supply hospitals in Canada. The agency says that the ibuprofen supply has been imported, and distribution is underway.

Health Canada said that all importations of foreign-authorized products “undergoes careful review,” to ensure that the product meets Canadian standards of safety and efficacy.

In the meantime, the federal health agency is asking parents not to hoard children’s pain medication—if they can find any supplies on store shelves— to allow others to access these medications as the shortage continues. If caregivers cannot find the medication needed, Health Canada is encouraging speaking to pharmacists about available alternatives.

Just how large the supply of incoming foreign medication will be remains unclear, other than Health Canada saying that “the amount to be imported will increase supply available to consumers and will help address the immediate situation.”

“We share the concerns of parents and caregivers about their inability to find infant and children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen. These products are essential for families, caregivers, and health care professionals to reduce fever and pain,” Health Canada said in the statement. “We are committed to exploring every possible option to end this shortage.”

In August, Health Canada confirmed a shortage of children’s pain relief medications across the country. The scant supply of medications, including liquid Children’s Tylenol and chewable acetaminophen tablets, has been attributed to a combination of supply chain issues, as well as heightened consumer demands due to what drug makers have called an “unprecedented” Canadian cold and flu season. 

The federal government has been under increasing pressure from provinces as well as the federal opposition parties to do more to triage the nationwide shortage. For example, over the last several weeks, the Conservatives have been pushing for the federal government to allow the importation and sale of foreign language-labelled versions of the same formulations of over-the-counter paediatric pain medication.

Health Canada said that as it pertains to the incoming supply, “all information related to cautions and warnings, dosing directions, ingredients, and other important details will be made available in both English and French to ensure parents and caregivers clearly understand what medication they are using and how to give to their children.” 

Last week, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos spoke with his provincial counterparts about the pressure bare shelves are having on families and on children’s hospitals.

Duclos has vowed to continue working with manufacturers—including Advil producer Haleon, and maker of Tylenol Johnson & Johnson—and distributors, as well as health stakeholders to come up with solutions for the shortage. In the meantime, some parents have reported going to great lengths to secure what they can. 

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