The surge in flu cases and Covid-19 infections this month, along with elevated levels of childhood respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV infections, has caused elevated demand for children’s over-the-counter cold and flu medications this year. The Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration says his agency is working with producers to improve supply, but the current demand is unprecedented.
“We’re urging people not to buy more than they need because there is enough to go around for the amount of illness. It’s just that the minute it gets shipped out it gets bought. And if people buy more than they need and everybody does that, then people who need the products won’t be able to get them,” FDA commissioner Dr. Robert Califf told CNBC.
The unprecedented demand has prompted some of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains to limit purchases in order to make sure there is enough supply for parents who need it. This week CVS Health began limiting purchases to two children ‘over-the-counter pain and fever relief medication items in-store and online. Walgreens and Rite Aid have limiting online purchases of some items, but not in-store. A Walmart spokesperson tells CNBC that it does not have purchase limits on pediatric pain and fever products.
Johnson & Johnson, one of the nation’s largest maker of children’s pain medications, says that it has ramped up production around the clock in order to meet the unprecedented demand, and is working with retailers to make sure to get more supply to areas where demand is higher.
“While products may be less readily available at some stores, we are not experiencing widespread shortages of Children’s Tylenol or Children’s Motrin,” a J&J spokesperson said in a statement, adding “we recognize this may be challenging for parents and caregivers, and are doing everything we can to make sure people have access to the products they need.”
On Wednesday, the Biden administration said that it would release doses of Tamiflu, the prescription flu antiviral medication, from national stockpiles in order to help maintain adequate supplies during the current flu season. However, the government does not have a stockpile for over-the-counter medications.
The FDA commissioner says his agency is working with manufacturers to make sure that necessary supply of children’s meds reach the areas where they are most needed. He added that sourcing more is a challenge right now because other countries in the northern hemisphere are experiencing similar demand.
“The overall supply is larger than it’s ever been, but the demand is even higher,” Dr. Califf said. “We’ve not seen the need the demand nearly as high as it is now at any time in our recorded history.”