Skip to main content

Children's medicine shortage seeping over into United States border city


Canadian parents scrambling to find children’s liquid Tylenol and Advil are looking across the border to fill the need amid a severe shortage at Canadian pharmacies.

But they may experience the same problem in the United States, especially in border cities like Windsor.

CTV made a cross-border trip, stopping in at a handful of pharmacies in Detroit, Mich., in search of the in-demand medications.

A CVS on Jefferson Avenue East was completely sold out of children’s Tylenol, Advil and Motrin. The store manager indicated the shelves have been quickly depleted by Canadians coming to the U.S. to buy medicine due to the shortage in Canada over the past month.

That’s what Nathan France of Windsor did while stateside at a convention.

“I had family call me and request children’s Tylenol for my nephew,” said France, who stopped off at a CVS pharmacy in Romulus, Mich. on his way back from Detroit Metro Airport.

He scooped up a few off-brand medications because all the name-brand product was already gone.

“It’s crazy to be in that position and my family is very, very stressed about the whole situation,” he said. “It’s not ideal to have a young child and if they get sick, what do you do, right?”

CVS did not have a limit on the number of medications someone can purchase, which meant people were scooping up large quantities at a time.

Down the street at a Rite Aid, there were a few boxes of liquid Tylenol and Advil, but the supply was mostly depleted. The cashier told the same story, that more and more Canadians are coming to the store, even calling ahead looking for supply.

A few blocks east at Walgreens, there was no supply of children’s Tylenol or Advil, but there were a few generic options. The cashier shared the same story as the previous two pharmacies, noting there’s at least a few Canadians a day walking down the children’s medication isle and asking about when deliveries take place.

When did this begin?

The shortage was first noticed in the spring when specifically children’s medication was in short supply at pharmacies both small and large.

In August, Health Canada confirmed a shortage of children’s pain relief medications across the country. The scant supply of medications, including liquid Children’s Tylenol and chewable acetaminophen tablets, has been attributed to a combination of supply chain issues, as well as heightened consumer demands due to what drug makers have called an "unprecedented" Canadian cold and flu season.

The triple threat of COVID-19, RSV and seasonal influenza has caused an influx of children at Windsor emergency rooms.

Windsor Regional Hospital currently has capacity for 16 paediatric patients. On Monday, the hospital had 23 paediatric patients being treated for various ailments. Hospital officials reported Thursday that number has dropped to 17 but hospital officials say that’s constantly going up and down.

How long will this last?

The federal government says the crunch will soon be alleviated. Health Canada announced Monday that it has secured a foreign supply of children’s acetaminophen.

This incoming supply will be available for retail purchase, or for parents to access at community pharmacies "in the coming weeks."

The incoming foreign acetaminophen supply is in addition to Health Canada recently approving the importation of infant and children's ibuprofen and acetaminophen to supply hospitals in Canada. The agency says that the ibuprofen supply has been imported, and distribution is underway.

With files from CTV’s Rachel Aiello Top Stories

Stay Connected