As the country slogs through a “tripledemic” wave of COVID-19, influenza and RSV infections, CVS and Walgreens confirmed Monday that they are limiting purchases of children’s pain and fever medication.
A Walgreens spokesperson told Nexstar that the decision was due to “increased demand and various supplier challenges,” and that pediatric fever reducing products are “seeing constraint across the country.”
There is currently no widespread, national shortage so supplies may vary from one community to another.
“In an effort to help support availability and avoid excess purchases, we put into effect an online only purchase limit of six per online transaction for all over-the-counter pediatric fever reducers,” the spokesperson added.
The company encourages customers looking to buy an item in-store to check the Walgreens website for inventory by location.
CVS spokesperson Mary Gattuso said the drugstore chain created the product limit to ensure “equitable access for all our customers.”
There is currently a two product limit on all children’s pain relief products at all CVS Pharmacy locations and cvs.com, Gattuso confirmed.
“We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items,” Gattuso said.
How did we get here?
Experts are blaming the early, widespread arrival of flu cases in the U.S., in combination with other respiratory illnesses, for the overwhelming demand for over-the-counter medication.
“There are more sick kids at this time of year than we have seen in the past couple years,” said Dr. Shannon Dillon, a pediatrician at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis.
Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson says it is not experiencing widespread shortages of Children’s Tylenol, but the product may be “less readily available” at some stores. The company said it is running its production lines around the clock.
“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.”
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on Sunday that shortages of children’s cold medicine, as well as an ongoing shortage of antibiotic drugs, are the result of unanticipated levels of demand, not a problem with the supply chain.
“Demand went up this year, they anticipated some increase in demand, but not as much as we’re seeing and not this early in the season,” Gottlieb said. “So it’s not any kind of disruption in supply. This isn’t like what we had with baby formula where manufacturers have been taken out of the market.”
Gottlieb anticipates that the pharmaceutical industry’s “sophisticated supply chain” should catch up soon.
In the meantime, parents of sick children may want to explore other options if they find bare shelves at their local pharmacy, experts say. To start with, you may want to check different locations, consider generic versions of name-brand drugs or even ask the family doctor where to find a well-stocked supply.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.