AUSTIN (KXAN) — Since the onset of cold and flu season in November, Tarrytown Pharmacy in Austin has been fielding calls from parents seeking infant and child-friendly acetaminophen, including name brands like Tylenol. It comes amid a nationwide shortage in children’s medicine, along with the rising “tripledemic” of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases.
“What’s happening is there’s a lot of demand and not that much supply of the products itself,” said Rannon Ching, pharmacist-in-charge at Tarrytown Pharmacy. “When we go to our order companies that we purchase our over-the-counter items from, our prescription medications, we look to see how much is available and nothing’s there.”
When supply levels are limited, pharmacy suppliers sometimes enact an allocation system, where each pharmacy can only order a certain number of units. Because of these allocations, that can lead to high demand levels with limited relief.
“We’ve been able to keep a kind of slow trickle of certain products of ibuprofen in, but the [acetaminophen] has been a lot more challenging,” he said. “We’re just really hearing from a lot of people just calling around, [saying] that their local pharmacy or the grocery store chain doesn’t have it. So they’re trying to find anyone that does.”
While children’s medicine has captured people’s attention, Ching said it’s not the only medication in short supply. People trying to restock medicine cabinets in peak allergy season are also finding empty shelves where Mucinex and Delsym cough syrup once sat. There might still be other generic cold and congestion medicines in supply, but not the same volume of name brand products or dosage types once offered.
Ching said Tarrytown has been stepping up its compounding services since the onset of the pandemic to expand supply of products. When the coronavirus pandemic began, its compounding focused primarily on supplies like hand sanitizer.
While Tarrytown can compound acetaminophen and ibuprofen, Ching said they can only offer it to customers with a prescription, since the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t declared the infant and children’s acetaminophen shortage a “true national backorder.”
For parents seeking child-friendly medication, Ching recommended families ask their child’s pediatrician for a prescription that Tarrytown can then fulfill.
“Because the FDA hasn’t declared this a true national shortage, we’re able to compound ibuprofen and acetaminophen,” he said. “However, it still requires a prescription, and so it just leads to a little bit of, kind of red tape in regards to how freely we can kind of distribute certain compound items.”