Skip to content

Small pharmacies are an option for children’s cold and flu medication

Health Canada says incoming product for hospitals only
Alberta Health says details are being finalizing to bring more children’s liquid pain and fever medication into the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Relief from the flu and colds for children could be as close as a visit to a small neighbourhood pharmacy, say local pharmacists.

“When it comes to the fear, I understand as a parent and a consumer, the feeling of going into a Walmart and seeing a shelf completely picked clean,” said Jennifer Fookes, compound clinical pharmacist and owner of Motar and Pesto Natural Pharmacy.

“My message to the public would be to check your small, local pharmacies because often they have been overlooked and they’re sitting with stock in many cases.”

Parents across Canada have been scrambling to get children’s cold and flu medications as cases of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) soared in recent months, not to mention continuing COVID infections.

In early December, Premier Danielle Smith said the province was working with Alberta Health Services and Health Canada to bring in five million bottles of pediatric acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

A statement from Alberta Health on Thursday said that on Dec. 30, Health Canada had authorized the importation of some of the medication for hospital use only.

“This will help alleviate some of the strain on the system this shortage has caused; however, since Health Canada authorization indicates it is for hospital use, incoming product will not end up on pharmacy shelves,” Alberta Health said.

So consumers are still confronted with empty shelves in cold and flu aisles.

Fookes recalled similar panic a few years ago during a shortage of the heartburn medicine Zantac. People spiraled, but there were other options.

She said when people can’t get a certain medicine, compounding pharmacies can make it with bulk supplies. Her pharmacy can also recommend natural alternatives.

“We are an emporium of natural and holistic things and by also having pharmacists on staff and technicians, we’re able to check for safety and appropriateness, which is not possible in purely holistic shops,” Fookes said.


Alberta to bring in more children’s pain medication as illnesses strain hospitals

Pharmacist Peter Lam, owner of Peter’s Pharmacy, Compounding and Home Health, said he has also maintained a small supply of children’s medicine by checking with his wholesaler several times a day.

When there is stock, the wholesaler will limit the amount sold, but Lam said he is able to pick up a few. Grocery store chains don’t have time to keep a close eye on wholesalers and only order two or three times a week when products may not be available.

He said the demand for children’s medication started in the summer and the tsunami of illnesses has taken a toll on the system.

Hoarding medication when people are not sick, or buying it for re-sale online, has also contributed to the shortage, he said.

“I’ve heard of stories that people come in, they see a bunch on the shelf, and they just empty it,” Lam said.

So far he hasn’t had to compound children’s medicine very often and has set limits on the amount of products people can buy off his shelves.

“Numerous times we’ll get people asking, ‘Can I get three or four bottles?’”

He said the answer is always no.


AHS recommends flu shots as protection from an exceptionally bad influenza season

Alberta Health says its department, along with Alberta Health Services, are working with the supplier and Health Canada to obtain the necessary approvals to bring additional children’s liquid pain and fever medication into the country.

“We are finalizing details and will announce firm information as soon as we have it,” Alberta Health said.

Once the product is authorized by Health Canada for retail use, the province will work to ensure it is distributed to pharmacies throughout the province as quickly as possible. Most urban and rural pharmacies should receive a supply within a matter of days.

“During the interim, we encourage parents to speak with their pharmacist if they are unable to find the medication needed to determine the most appropriate option. This may include having their pharmacist create a compounded medication, obtain a compounded medication from a compounding pharmacy or suggest an alternative medication.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter