After parents endured a children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen shortage, there are more tough times ahead as liquid antibiotics are now becoming scarce in Saskatchewan. Commonly prescribed to cure children’s infections, pharmacists are calling it a “tier three shortage” meaning it’s critical.
“This had a big impact on the health-care system,” said pharmacist Kelly Kizlyk.
“Drug shortages are complex. There are a lot of factors that contribute o why we have drug shortages … one of the reasons they’ve called a tier three shortage is it really allows the government to do all sorts of things in order to access a safe supply of medications. And so really, we’ve got government, we’ve got the supply chain, we’ve got health-care professionals – pharmacists, physicians, nurse practitioners – all involved in helping to manage this drug shortage.”
The Ministry of Health said that supply chain issues are not unique to the province or even Canada right now.
“As is the case across the country, Saskatchewan is experiencing supply challenges in a number of areas, including some medications. The antibiotic, amoxicillin, is currently in reduced supply not just in Canada, but globally,” said representative Dale Hunter on behalf of the Ministry of Health.
He says that this is largely due to increased demand during the flu season. They are working with pharmacists, so they are able to provide their clients with alternative options to liquid antibiotics.
Kizlyk said that determining symptoms and whether an ailment is worthy of doctor or emergency treatment is the first step for parents treating their kids. She said access to nurses by calling 811 can help parents determine what kind of infection their child might have.
“We can have that conversation about what needs an antibiotic and what doesn’t need an antibiotic. Right now, we’ve got lots of viruses circulating, so we’ve got COVID, we’ve got influenza, we’ve got RSV. These viruses are not touched by antibiotics. So, antibiotics kill bacteria. And although there are some infections that need an antibiotic, not all infections do. And this is a really important point for parents and caregivers to realize,” Kizlyk said.
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The current shortage of antibiotics involves the liquid version, meaning capsules and tablets are readily available. Whether it’s an adult that has trouble swallowing pills or a child, pharmacists are coaching people through options so they can use solid versions of the medication.
“So, I know with some of these antibiotics and even the ibuprofen and acetaminophen, we’ve been coaching kids that are ready on how to swallow pills. And there’s some awesome tools on the internet,” said Kizlyk. “You might be able to open that tablet or capsule or crush it and administer it to your child.”
The Government of Saskatchewan said with “the recent increase in influenza and respiratory illness activity it is imperative that all residents get up-to-date on their vaccinations and get their flu shot. All preventative measures that prevent COVID-19 transmission will also mitigate the transmission of other respiratory illnesses, including influenza.
“Health Canada recently approved the importation of ibuprofen and acetaminophen from the U.S. and Australia for use in hospitals, as well as additional foreign authorized children’s acetaminophen for sale at retail and community pharmacies.”
This is an option that is being explored once again for the importation of antibiotics.