Skip to main content

Ontario parents say they're now travelling to the U.S. in search of children's medication


A Canada-wide shortage of children's medication, amid a surge of respiratory infections, has forced some Ontario parents to head south of the border in search of solutions.

At Meds, a pharmacy in Etobicoke, Ont., compound pharmacist Dave Hughes told CTV News Toronto they’re seeing an average of five to 20 excess sick children a day.

“There’s a lineup forming most nights where people are asking questions about one medication or another,” he told CTV News Toronto Thursday. “There is some urgency to a lot of cases.”

Two families said in interviews they plan to travel or had travelled to Buffalo, N.Y., in search of relief for their children.

“My granddaughter had a lung infection, and the doctor said to give her Tylenol,” a woman, Savem, told CTV News Toronto. "She had a really bad headache and cough, but you don’t find Tylenol, you don’t find anything, so this Saturday, I’m going to Buffalo."

Evelyn, a mother who spoke to CTV News Toronto, who said she was previously only able to find a small amount of infant Tylenol in Toronto, said she had recently travelled to Buffalo in search of medication.

“It’s been so difficult,” she said. “I recently went to a Shoppers but all they had was infant Tylenol and only a small amount and they wanted a prescription from a doctor to get it.”

“I decided on my own terms to go to the States, to Buffalo, and they had a few bottles left.”

She purchased only one of the bottles and drove back to Ontario, she said.

Health Canada is blaming the shortage of analgesics, or pain relief medication, on unprecedented demand, while many pharmacists say there's been a supply shortage for months.

Toronto pharmacist Amir Khela says supply has been dwindling for months.

“It’s been gone for what? Three months now?” he said. “It’s definitely a supply problem.”

This week, federal Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said the shortage of medication was due to a rising wave of respiratory illnesses.

“Demand for analgesics has soared,” Duclos said. “We now understand really well that this is driven by the severe viruses that are impacting our children across Canada.”

Officials also point to the spike in children admissions at hospitals. Locally, at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, emergency room wait times are up 12 hours on average. In the hospital's general medicine unit, occupancy rates have hit 133 per cent.

In Ottawa, CHEO, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ottawa, recently had to open a second pediatric care unit.

In the meantime, Health Canada said manufacturers are increasing production, with some producing “at record levels.”

It said it recently approved the “exceptional” importation of ibuprofen from the United States, and is working on doing the same for acetaminophen from Australia, to supply hospitals.

Health Canada is also working on doing the same for community pharmacies and consumers, it adds, although the agency did not provide a timeline for when that would happen.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Heidi Petracik Top Stories

Stay Connected