Alberta-imported kids pain meds finally in the province

Edmonton pharmacist Chandan Sangha holds up a bottle of Turkish-manufactured kids pain medication Parol and a dosing spoon on March 20, 2023, as Health Minister Jason Copping (L) looks on. Global News

The Alberta-imported, Turkish-made children’s acetaminophen is now available at pharmacies around the province, provincial officials said Monday afternoon.

“They’re still being distributed around the province,” Health Minister Jason Copping said, noting it was at the Edmonton drug store the government staged the announcement at.

One third of the 750,000-bottle order from Atabay Pharmaceuticals has arrived in Alberta and Copping said the remaining shipments will be coming to the province by the end of the month.

Alberta announced the deal to secure five million bottles of children’s pain and fever medicine from Atabay in early December 2022.

Four and a half months later, Copping admitted “it has been challenging for everyone and it has taken a little longer than we hoped for it to arrive.”

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Premier Danielle Smith called it a “painstaking and rigorous process” to get the liquid acetaminophen cleared by Health Canada, a process that included new English-French bilingual packaging.

The first shipment of 250,000 bottles went to hospitals across the province in January.

Click to play video: 'Alberta  government looks to recoup $80M from children’s medicine shipment'
Alberta government looks to recoup $80M from children’s medicine shipment

Smith and Copping said there continue to be supply chain challenges in getting other children’s medications.

“We have secured a stable supply of this medication for years to come, ensuring that Alberta isn’t as susceptible to global supply chain disruptions in the future,” Smith said.

The health minister said when the province canvassed drug manufacturers abroad, the Istanbul-based manufacturer was the only one willing to fill Alberta’s order.

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Sold under the brand name “Parol,” the glass-bottled children’s pain reliever will be at a lower concentration than what’s commonly found, an Alberta Blue Cross memo said. Because of the different concentration, it must be kept behind the counter and pharmacists must teach parents and/or caregivers how to administer the drug.

Parol has a two-year shelf life.

The Opposition critic for children’s services said Monday’s announcement is illustrative of how the Smith government handles health care.

“Today’s announcement that a portion of the UCP’s procurement of children’s medication has finally arrived comes far too late,” Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud, said in a statement.

“Last year, when the lack of children’s pain relief medication drove many families to the emergency room, where they were met with wait times of up to 17 hours at children’s hospitals, the UCP failed to immediately respond to the crisis,” she continued.

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“Now, a small portion of the medication they procured has arrived too late to address the problem and will have to be kept behind the counter because it comes in non-standard doses.

“And the province is on the hook for another 4.5 million bottles still on the way.”

Margaret Wing, CEO of the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association, said the past several months have been difficult for parents across the province and country to find many categories of children’s medications.

“Currently, the supply of some of the pediatric medications has stabilized. However, we’re still experiencing some areas in the province where these medications are still hard to find, and there are supply challenges and inconsistencies in stocks,” Wing said.

Click to play video: 'Feds approve Alberta government importation of kids’ pain medications but confusion lingers'
Feds approve Alberta government importation of kids’ pain medications but confusion lingers

Copping said the province is subsidizing around half the cost of Parol for Albertans, saying the import costs per bottle were around $14.

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Alberta Blue Cross recommended a retail price of $11.99 in its March memo.

Copping said 1.5 million bottles will remain in the province, and the balance of the Atabay order will be available for other provinces to purchase.

“We are in conversations now with other provinces to see what they need. And so, we’ll be able to get revenue from them should they choose to go forward with this,” the health minister said. “Plus, there’s other opportunities for us to be able to defray the costs.”

Copping confirmed the total expense for the five million bottles was $80 million, including $10 million for “overall” importing costs.

“The vast majority of my understanding of that ($10 million) is actually shipping costs.”

Copping also announced the first shipment of kids’ ibuprofen had arrived in the country and was going through the federal quarantine process.

When that hits Albertan shelves, it will be sold under the “Pedifin” brand name. In total, 500,000 bottles of Pedifin will be imported.

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