Two major pharmacy stores have placed limits on customers purchasing children’s medicine amid reports of shortages as the winter cold-and-flu season impacts families across the United States.
According to a report, CVS Health and Walgreens are limiting customers from buying Children’s Tylenol and other over-the-counter fever-reducing medicines like Tamiflu, children’s ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.
CVS Health said customers have only a two-product limit on all children’s pain relief products bought through its pharmacies or online.
A CVS spokesperson told TODAY.com that the company has seen customers searching for cold, flu, and children’s pain relief products.
“We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items,” the CVS spokesperson said. “In the event a local store experiences a temporary product shortage, our teams have a process in place to replenish supply.”
Walgreens reportedly said online customers could only buy up to six children’s over-the-counter fever-reducing products. However, the limit does not apply in stores.
A Walgreens spokesperson told TODAY.com that the store is “prepared and able to continue meeting the needs of our customers and patients.”
“We are working with our diverse set of suppliers and distributors to ensure our patients have the products they need most,” the spokesperson said.
Pharmacist Don Arthur told NBC affiliate WGRZ in Buffalo, New York, that he first noticed the shortages in neighboring towns and cities across the U.S./Canada border.
He said the shortage “first appeared on our radar when we had patients calling us from over the border — Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, even as far as Toronto — because, apparently, up in Canada, the liquid forms of Tylenol are unavailable.”
There’s “just too much demand for the current supply,” he added.
The shortages come as the annual U.S. flu season spiked, along with other respiratory illnesses.
According to December 16 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 15 million flu illnesses, 150,000 hospitalizations, and 9,300 deaths, 30 of which were in kids. The statistics surpassed the totals for the last flu season and increased from the previous week, which showed 13 million illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 7,300 deaths.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported recent data showing Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases spiked in October. RSV usually causes children to contract the usual mild-cold symptoms, but the impact could be much worse for those who may be immunocompromised or have a preexisting heart defect.
Children contracting respiratory illness may have contributed to the shortage of medicine.
Dr. Shannon Dillon, a pediatrician at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis, told The Associated Press, “there are more sick kids at this time of year than we have seen in the past couple years.”
“At this point, it’s more like toilet paper at the beginning of the (COVID-19) pandemic,” Dillon said. “You just have to look in the right place at the right time.”
Big pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson said as reported by The Associated Press that although Children’s Tylenol may be “less readily available” at some stores, the drugmaker has not experienced widespread shortages.
White House officials have weighed in on the ongoing shortages of over-the-counter medicines that treat common respiratory illnesses, especially for children.
“(The Food and Drug Administration) and the (Department of Health and Human Services) are tracking this very closely,” Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told TODAY last week. “The good news here is that we have plenty of supply. … Manufacturers, they’re working 24/7. Supply is actually up. The challenge is demand.”
Jha said illnesses like influenza, COVID-19, and RSV are spreading “at high levels” among young children and the elderly nationwide.
“That demand is really unusual, unlike what we’ve seen in years, so we are seeing some of those mismatches,” he continued. “But the supply is working great, manufacturing is going great, and we’re going to keep plugging away at making sure that there’s plenty of supply across the country as we enter the holidays.”