‘Nothing is available’: Pharmacies experiencing shortage of adult cold and flu medication

Click to play video: 'Toronto pharmacies experiencing adult cold, flu medication shortage'
Toronto pharmacies experiencing adult cold, flu medication shortage
WATCH ABOVE: Pharmacies across the city of Toronto are experiencing a shortage in adult cold and flu medication. Erica Vella speaks with pharmacists about the shortages – Jan 3, 2023

Pharmacies across Toronto and beyond are experiencing shortages of adult cold and flu medication, with many pharmacy shelves having little to no inventory.

Semah Salib, a pharmacist at Woodgreen Discount Pharmacy said it’s an unprecedented shortage and something he hasn’t seen happen in before.

“Nothing is available,” he said. “It’s never happened before. Over the last 20 years, we always have supply and out of the supply we have some extra … but this is the first year we have none.”

Global News visited at least a dozen pharmacies across the city and all were found to be experiencing adult cold and flu medication inventory issues; some had limited inventory, while others had none.

Click to play video: 'Canadian pharmacies facing shortage of adult cold and flu medication'
Canadian pharmacies facing shortage of adult cold and flu medication
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Justin Bates from the Ontario Pharmacists Association said the shortages pharmacies are experiencing are due to a number of different factors, including the shortage of children’s medication that is also being felt nationwide.

“What often happens is one shortage begets another. When we looked at short-term solutions to the children’s shortage, we were recommending splitting tablets of the adult formulation and putting it into food for children,” Bates said.

Click to play video: 'Health experts offer advice for families during kids’ medication shortage'
Health experts offer advice for families during kids’ medication shortage

“We had an earlier cold and flu season. We have COVID outbreaks and the triple threat of the flu as well as RSV … All of these things created the perfect storm.”

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Canada has been experiencing a nationwide shortage of children’s pain medications for months, leaving parents scrambling to manage their children’s fever and pain as rates of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza skyrocket.

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The drug shortage has led to calls for Canada to invest more in its pharmaceutical production capacities for essential medications.


Bates said another reason why pharmacies have seen cold and flu medication supply dwindle is due to Canada’s reliance on international supply.

“Our domestic capacity is very limit,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of manufacturers and we rely on international supply of products.”

Click to play video: 'Natural ways support your health during cold and flu season'
Natural ways support your health during cold and flu season

People in need of adult cold and flu medication are being asked to speak with a trusted medical professional.

“There are still some options to split tablets of different formulations, as well as the potential to do compounding, and pharmacists have been offering to do that as a solution throughout the shortage,” said Bates, adding there are home remedies people can turn to as well.

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“Not all fevers … and colds need to be treated. It helps manage symptoms, but they don’t cure it so there are home remedies — everything from fluid intake and rest — there are recommendations that health care providers can give to ease some of those symptoms.”

In a statement to Global News, Health Canada said drug shortages are a “complex global problem.”

“Health Canada recognizes the negative impact of drug shortages on patients, health care professionals and the health-care system, and works together with stakeholders to build a more open and secure drug supply system,” the statement read. “Everyone has a role to play in addressing drug shortages.”

Health Canada said the country’s food and drug regulations require drug sellers to report online when they are “not able to meet demand for a product or when they stop selling a product.”

“According to the site, there are no shortages of adult cold medications reported by drug sellers,” Health Canada said.

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