Canadian health officials are not saying specifically how much children’s pain medication is being imported amid a continuing shortage, but added they are working on making that information public soon.
Officials from Health Canada were pressed on the importation plans of pediatric pain medicines, which are sold under brand names like Tylenol and Advil, at a parliamentary health committee on Tuesday, a day after the agency confirmed it had secured additional supplies.
Linsey Hollett, the director of health product compliance for Health Canada, said a shipment of ibuprofen from the United States has arrived and an air shipment of acetaminophen from Australia will arrive in the next couple of weeks.
Hollett was asked how much of the supplies Canada is going to receive, but said the regulator at this time could not share the exact quantities because it was “confidential business information.”
“It’s the information of those companies that are importing,” she said.
When further pressed by MPs on why the government was not releasing these numbers as it did when it had procured COVID-19 vaccines to fight the pandemic, Hollet said the agency was working toward making that information on children’s pain medicine supplies public.
“While I am not able to share now, work is underway with the entities, the companies that we have been working with and are importing to make the information that is being asked for public in very short order on the Health Canada website,” she added.
Since the summer, infant and children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen products have been in limited supply in retail outlets, pharmacies and hospitals across Canada.
Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said the first signs of supply issues arose in April but it wasn’t until August that companies warned that their efforts to increase supplies were failing amid an uptick in demand.
“It was in August where there was more attention to the issue … when we saw this huge, drastic increase in purchasing, so that’s when it tripled and quadrupled,” she told MPs on Tuesday.
Last month, Health Canada approved the exceptional importation of ibuprofen from the United States and acetaminophen from Australia, to supply hospitals in Canada.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Monday that additional foreign shipments of children’s acetaminophen that have been secured are “equivalent to months of normal supply” of analgesics, which is in addition to increased domestic production of these products.
As shortages persist across the country, Health Canada is urging Canadian to “buy only what they need”.
— with files from Teresa Wright and The Canadian Press