Not just Tylenol: Calgary pharmacist says other cold and flu medications also in short supply

For months, Canadian cities have been reporting shortages of children’s Tylenol products and Calgarians say they’ve seen the impacts first-hand. But now, shoppers and pharmacists alike say it’s becoming increasingly hard to find other cold and flu products too.

Last month, Jon Belliveau’s eight-year-old daughter caught a nasty cold, so he did what many parents would — he went to his store to get some children’s Tylenol.

There was none. So he moved on to the adult section.

“The shelves were empty. There was no Tylenol … I mean, I’m not picky — generic name, brand — I don’t care. Acetaminophen is acetaminophen. It all does the same thing. But there was nothing,” he said.

He returned home empty-handed and made do.

“We had a little bit of Motrin left, but it wasn’t enough for a full dose,” he said. “So we just tried getting her to relax a little bit, to drink more fluids, to sleep a little bit more. It worked, but it definitely wasn’t pleasant for her.”

Ultimately his mother, a grocery store clerk in New Brunswick, found some children’s Tylenol at work one day and mailed it to them. 

“But as soon as she grabbed it, there was four or five people who went down the aisle trying to find it as well,” he said. 

Tawni, Emily and Jon Belliveau. Jon went to a store last month to get some children’s Tylenol, but came up empty. (Submitted by Jon Belliveau)

Luke’s Drug Mart pharmacy manager David Brewerton said it’s not just children’s medicine that’s running low. He’s had big empty holes on his shelves for many medicines for several months.

“There are so many shortages, it’s not even funny. Practically every cough and cold medicine,” he said. 

Brewerton said the manufacturer tells the wholesale and they put it into the system, where it will either say something like “expected delivery Sept. 20” or “into next year.”

“Then other times they’ll just say ‘indeterminate,’ which means the manufacturer has no idea when they’re going to have stock.”

Brewerton said that’s frustrating. 

“You’re wanting to be able to supply people with what they need to make them feel better. And you can’t do it,” he said. 

David Brewerton, pharmacy manager at Luke’s Drug Mart in Calgary, is dealing with drug shortages on a daily basis. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

And with fall just around the corner, he doesn’t expect things to improve. 

“It will get worse. It will. There’s no question. If you’re starting at a point of abundance, it’s one thing when things start to go short, but when you’re already starting with problems those problems will simply magnify.”

In a statement, Tylenol manufacturer Johnson & Johnson said it continues to experience increased demand on certain products and markets and it’s taking all possible measures to ensure product availability.

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