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Summertime shortage of cold and flu medications at some Red Deer pharmacies

Manufacturers say a rise in demand makes it hard to keep up
Some pharmacies are noticing a shortage of children’s Tylenol and other cold and flu medications. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)

The height of cold and flu season is still months away, but some Red Deer pharmacies are already experiencing shortages in cough syrup and other products.

Tylenol, Benedryl, Robitussin, Vicks — these and other band names products are in short supply on some store shelves in central Alberta and across the country.

“We’re low on almost all of them,” said Donna Silva, front store manager for Rexall drug store in Red Deer, who anticipates more shipments will come in before the fall.

Cassie Kinch, a pharmacy technician at Parsons Pharmacy in the city, has mostly noticed a shortage of certain cough syrups. She’s glad to see that some other brands and generics are still available.

Shortages of off-the-shelf medications have been reported across Canada. Manufacturers aren’t giving a reason for these shortages, but are notifying pharmacies that some of these products are in intermittent supply.

Initially, some drug manufacturers had blamed pandemic lockdown and work slowdowns for the supply shortage. In April, Tylenol manufacturer Johnston and Johnston stated it continues to experience increased demand for certain products and is trying keep up production to ensure availability.

Some Calgary pharmacists have speculated that the scarcity in some off-the-shelf medications could be due to some rise in COVID-19 infections, which produce flu-like symptoms.

But many pharmacists in Red Deer say they can’t explain why there would be an increased demand for cold and flu products in the summertime. And they wonder what the situation will be like in the fall and winter?

The biggest shortage at the moment is in children’s Tylenol, said Mehul Makwana, pharmacist and owner of The Medicine Shoppe in Red Deer.

While customers can now be referred to other in-stock products, such as children’s Advil, problems could deepen if the Tylenol shortage continues as flu season intensifies so that stores begin running out of alternative products as well, said Makwana.

He noted his children’s Advil is now on back order because it was the product customers chose when they couldn’t get children’s Tylenol.

“If it lasts long, there will be a concern.”

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