New shipments of children’s pain medication will be available for retail purchase “in the coming weeks,” thanks to foreign supplies of the medication recently secured by Health Canada, the regulator said Monday.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the shipments are “equivalent to months of normal supply” of analgesics, which is in addition to increased domestic production of these products.
The shipments of children’s acetaminophen announced Monday are the latest in efforts from the federal government to secure additional supplies of children’s pain medications, due to a shortage of both children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen that has been ongoing since the summer.
Last month, Health Canada approved the exceptional importation of ibuprofen from the United States and acetaminophen from Australia, to supply hospitals in Canada amid the shortages.
The ibuprofen shipments have already arrived in Canada and distribution to hospitals has begun, according to a statement from Health Canada issued Monday.
Now, the agency says it has secured a foreign supply of children’s acetaminophen that will be available for sale at retail and in community pharmacies “in the coming weeks.”
The amount of this medication that will be imported will increase the supply available to consumers and will help address the immediate situation, Health Canada said in a statement.
“At this time, Canadians should buy only what they need, so that other parents and caregivers can access medication so we can meet the needs of sick children,” it added.
Health Canada carefully reviewed this new proposal to ensure it adhered to Canadian quality standards and found the product was “safe and effective,” the agency says.
Bilingual labelling laws will also be applied to these new products, it added.
“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,” the Health Canada statement says.
“This work is being done in parallel to obtaining the additional foreign supply.”
Health Canada says the countrywide shortage of children’s formulations of acetaminophen and ibuprofen is due to unprecedented demand.
Manufacturers of these drugs in Canada have increased production by 30 per cent, but demand continues to outstrip supply.
The shortage comes as Canada is experiencing what is being called a “triple-demic” of cases of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and an early onset of the flu season. These viruses are playing a role in significant challenges facing children’s hospitals across Canada, which are swamped with children suffering from respiratory illnesses.
In Ontario, where hospitals have been experiencing significant pressures due also to staffing shortages that have forced intermittent ER closures for the last several months, the Ministry of Health is instructing emergency departments to prepare for “an extreme surge” in demand.The crisis plans to combat a surge in hospital demand, particularly from children, came as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, made a plea Monday for people to return to regular mask wearing.
Meanwhile, the plight of parents left scrambling for ways to treat their children’s illnesses amid a medication shortage was front and centre on the floor of the House of Commons Monday, with both Conservative and NDP MPs raising concerns about how long it is taking the government to find solutions.
Some parents have been forced to travel to the United States to access necessary medications for their kids, while others are being gouged by people selling some of these products online for hiked prices, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said.
“Why are these medications available abroad but not here at home?” Poilievre asked.
NDP health critic Don Davies noted some products containing the commonly used antibiotic amoxicillin are in also short supply.
“It’s a scary time to be a parent, and there are things this government can do now instead of vague promises and pointing fingers,” Davies said.
“Parents are desperate for help. Where is the plan to care for our children?”
Duclos acknowledged that parents and families are “living through stressful times,” which is why Health Canada took the measure to secure several months’ worth of supplies of children’s pain medications from other countries.
“We’ll keep working on a longer term solution to these shortages,” Duclos added
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also weighed in on the situation Monday, promising that Ottawa would keep working with manufacturers, distributors, provinces, territories, hospitals and others to increase supply of kids analgesics “to keep all of our kids safe and healthy.”
“As a parent, I know there’s nothing more important than that,” Trudeau said in a Twitter message.