As supply chain problems continue to plague the country and an outbreak of viral infections has increased demand for certain medications, some experts predict that certain U.S. pharmacy shelves could soon be bare.
Specifically, children’s Tylenol has already been in short supply in certain areas as cases of respiratory syncytial virus increase dramatically. Since acetaminophen can aid in pain relief and fever reduction for kids with the seasonal virus, the recent spike has increased demand for over-the-counter medicine.
There is a children's Tylenol shortage in the country at the same time there is one of the worst RSV, flu, and respiratory outbreaks in years with hospitals at capacity.
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As pharmacist Don Arthur explained, there has been “too much demand for the current supply” in the Buffalo, New York, area.
“I think unfortunately with RSV, every flu season we deal in our community with the common flu, we deal with colds, we deal with RSV, but we still have COVID in smaller levels,” he said, adding: “It’s still present, and now it seems we have a bit of a spike with RSV.”
Tylenol manufacturer Johnson & Johnson acknowledged that there is a shortage of the drug in Canada but denied the problem has reached the U.S., explaining that there “is increased consumer-driven demand for our children’s pain relief products in certain regions and we’re taking all possible measures to ensure product availability.”
Despite the company’s assurances, consumers across much of the country are discovering that the medication is in short supply. In Connecticut, the dearth of children’s Tylenol, Motrin, and Advil comes on the heels of an amoxicillin shortage.
RSV cases have skyrocketed this year and the flu season has gotten off to an earlier and more severe start than in typical years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that hospitalizations related to influenza topped 4,300 nationwide at the end of last month, which is the highest level this early in the year that experts have seen in more than a decade.
As pediatrician Stacene Maroushek noted, she has not seen such high hospitalization levels among children in her 25-year career.
“I have seen families who just aren’t getting a break,” she added. “They have one viral illness after another. And now there’s the secondary effect of ear infections and pneumonia that are prompting amoxicillin shortages.”
The spike in such seasonal infections appears to be tied to the lockdown measures imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. As infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Blatt explained, public immunity is down since “we haven’t had any flu for two or three years because people have been masking and isolating.”