Summer shortage of cold and flu medications at some Red Deer pharmacies

The peak of cold and flu season is still months away, but some pharmacies in Red Deer are already experiencing shortages of cough syrup and other products.

Tylenol, Benedryl, Robitussin, Vicks – these and other group names are rare on the shelves of some stores in central Alberta and across the country.

“We’re out of almost everything,” said Donna Silva, manager of Rexall Pharmacy in Red Deer, who expects more shipments to arrive before the fall.

Cassie Kinch, a pharmacy technician at the city’s Parsons Pharmacy, especially noticed a shortage of certain cough syrups. She is happy to see that other brands and generics are still available.

Over-the-counter drug shortages have been reported across Canada. The manufacturers do not give a reason for these shortages, but inform pharmacies that some of these products are in intermittent supply.

Initially, some drugmakers blamed the pandemic-related work slowdowns on the supply shortage. In April, Tylenol maker Johnston and Johnston said it continued to face increased demand for certain products and was trying to maintain production to ensure availability.

Some Calgary pharmacists have speculated that the scarcity of some commercially available drugs may be due to some increase in COVID-19 infections, which produce flu-like symptoms.

But many pharmacists in Red Deer say they can’t explain why there would be an increased demand for cold and flu products in the summer. And they wonder what will be the situation in autumn and winter?

The biggest shortage right now is children’s Tylenol, said Mehul Makwana, pharmacist and owner of The Medicine Shoppe in Red Deer.

While customers can now be referred to other in-stock products, such as children’s Advil, problems could worsen if Tylenol shortages continue as flu season intensifies, so that stores are also starting to run out of alternative products, Makwana said.

He noted that children’s Advil was now out of stock because it was the product customers chose when they couldn’t get children’s Tylenol.

“If it lasts a long time, there will be a problem.”

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