Nunavut gov’t warns of ‘temporary’ shortage of children’s pain medicine

Nunavut is no exception to the national shortage of children’s pain medication.

The regional government officially warned of “temporary” shortages of children’s Advil and Tylenol this week.

Chris Voss, a pharmacist at Northmart Pharmacy in Iqaluit, said he has been keeping children’s pain medications behind the counter for the past several months.

Vose said the shortage comes down to demand and supply.

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“We had it all the time before Covid, but everyone was inside with masks for a while,” he said.

Now that cold and flu season has hit Canada this year, he says “everyone is … buying a lot of cold and flu stuff over the counter.”

Voss said that was around September when the pharmacy noticed that orders for children’s pain relief weren’t coming in. That’s when they started putting their remaining supplies behind the counter and “checking patients as they came in.”

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Right now, he said, the pharmacy is able to offer tablet and liquid forms of the drug.

He said an incoming resupply of the drug had been “scattered”.

“I’m not sure of the exact number. But sometimes it comes once a week, sometimes it doesn’t,” Voss said.

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If your child is sick, Voss says to talk to a pharmacist before giving any medication that isn’t for children.

“Don’t give stuff to adults, ask the pharmacist what’s best,” she said.

A man is talking on the phone.  He is standing behind the shelves in a store.
Chris Voss is a pharmacist with NorthMart Pharmacy in Iqaluit. She has been keeping children’s pain medication behind the counter since September. (Sarah Krimalowski/CBC)

Because pain medications for adults contain different ingredients, and children under six years of age should generally not have them.

“It’s just regular Tylenol, regular Advil, you don’t want to risk giving your child a medication they shouldn’t or even possibly overdosing on something they shouldn’t have,” Voss warned.

He added that the pharmacy has not yet run out of children’s medicine and is looking into ordering compounded versions – a type of supply made by pharmacists rather than the big brands – from Winnipeg.

“So we’re getting supplies, and we’re doing what we can,” Voss said.

Last week, the federal government said it was importing one million bottles of foreign-made children’s pain and fever medicine to help ease a month-long shortage, and it would appear on shelves this week. Voss said his pharmacy hasn’t seen that supply yet, but he’s confident it will arrive.

For now, the Government of Nunavut still has supplies of children’s medicine to health centers and hospitals.

Carmine Neustraten, Acting Regional Director of Pharmacy for the Government of Nunavut, added that people should not use aspirin if their child has a fever because it could cause potential harm.

He recommended that Nunavumuit go to their local health center if they have a fever above 38 degrees Celsius, or if the fever lasts for several days.

Neustraten said there’s always the possibility that the region could run into challenges getting the supplies it needs.

“But we’re working really hard to prepare as much as possible to make sure we’re able to access the supplies we need,” he said.

When it comes to shortages of other children’s drugs like amoxicillin in other parts of the country, Neustraten said the region is monitoring the situation.

“In light of what we’re hearing across the country, we’re watching our drug supply pretty closely,” he said. “We have a few weeks’ supply of amoxicillin, for example, still available and are continuing to work to see how best to store that supply and get additional supplies.”

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