Adult cold and flu drugs hard to find as federal government works on amoxicillin shortage

The triple threat virus season now has adult cold and flu medications in short supply. Shauna Hunt has the latest on the nation wide drug shortages and when more supply of children’s antibiotics will be arriving in Canada.

By Shauna Hunt and Meredith Bond

While shelves in Ontario pharmacies have been empty for several months for children’s medication, it’s now becoming increasingly difficult to find adult cold and flu medications.

Pharmacists tell CityNews they cannot stock their shelves as demand is again picking up. It comes as there has been some good news about children’s antibiotics.

Dr. Jen Belcher with the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) said there has been a low stock of specific brands on and off over the last eight months, but now the shortage has escalated.

“What we are seeing with this is that it’s very similar to the kids’ medications; there is a very exceptionally high demand than typically what we would see in a year,” Dr. Belcher explained.

The drug shortages started being reported when a triple threat virus season, Influenza, COVID-19 and RSV, hit fast and furious. A wave of kids began getting sick, with many of those cases leading to secondary bacterial infections such as strep throat and pneumonia — illnesses treated with antibiotics, which are also in low supply.

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Since mid-October, Ontario parents have been scrambling to fill prescriptions. CityNews has now learned that by the end of January, Canada should have a 12-week supply of amoxicillin for children.

President and CEO of Juno Pharmaceuticals Mark Mantel said his company is one of several working closely with Health Canada and has been approved to import 100,000 units of international supply.

“The amoxicillin shortage is serious. We are seeing empty pharmacies all over the country, and the hospitals can’t get enough supply, so it’s dire,” Mantel said.

“We are focusing on ensuring that the hospitals have access from a critical care perspective first, particularly the pediatric wards for children,” explained Mantel. “And then we will facilitate the movement of material and amoxicillin antibiotic into all the pharmacies across the country by the end of January.”

After months of empty shelves, the federal government also recently secured a couple of million bottles of children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen from other countries. With the flu, RSV and COVID-19 still circulating, pharmacists across the GTA continue rationing that supply.

“Ultimately, we cannot say we are in a situation where the shortage is over, there still is not adequate supply, there is still high demand,” said Dr. Belcher.

There are indications that flu has peaked in Ontario, while RSV peaked about a month ago, but COVID-19 cases appear to be on the rise, one reason that could be driving up demand for cold and flu meds.

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