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Health Canada importing more kids’ pain and fever meds to restock store shelves

Months-long shortage fueled by increase in respiratory illnesses

A foreign supply of children’s pain and fever medication should land on Canadian retail shelves in the coming weeks, Health Canada said Monday.

The agency, which had previously announced it was importing acetaminophen and ibuprofen to be distributed to hospitals, said the new retail supply should help families struggling to treat their sick children.

The move follows a months-long shortage of Tylenol, Advil and alternative brands that has sent many parents and caregivers scouring bare shelves and swapping tips on drug sightings.

The shortage was fuelled by a triple threat of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, a common fall and winter illness in children known as RSV.

That illness emerged in the late summer, earlier than expected, and continues to slam hospitals.

While the government said a new supply of acetaminophen is coming, it did not say how much or where it’s being imported from. The agency noted the meds will meet all of Canada’s standards.

“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,” Health Canada said in a written statement.

“This work is being done in parallel to obtaining the additional foreign supply.”

The agency is asking consumers to only purchase what they need to ensure other parents and caregivers have access to the medicine.

Meanwhile, Health Canada said the foreign ibuprofen bound for hospitals has already been imported and is being distributed.

“Health Canada’s top priority is the health and safety of Canadians and we are committed to exploring every possible option to end this shortage,” the statement said.

One such option, the New Democratic Party suggested earlier Monday, was to establish a public drug manufacturer “preferably through a Crown corporation.”

“I don’t think there are any issues more important to Canadians than the health of their children,” said NDP health critic Don Davies. “When their ability to respond to their children’s pain and their illness is compromised, I think that’s a crisis of the highest order.”

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

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