The rise in flu cases and Covid-19 infections this month, combined with increased childhood respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections, has led to increased demand for over-the-counter cold and flu medicines for children. The Food and Drug Administration commissioner said his agency is working with manufacturers to improve supply, but current demand is unprecedented.
“We urge people not to buy more than they need because there is enough to get around for the amount of illness. It’s just that it’s bought the moment it ships. And when people are buying more than they need, and everyone is doing it, people who need the products can’t get them,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf to CNBC.
Demand has prompted some of the country’s largest pharmacy chains to limit purchases to ensure there are enough supplies for parents who need them. This week CVS Health began limiting purchases to two over-the-counter pain and fever medicines for children in stores and online. Walgreens and rite aid have limited purchases of some items online but not in stores. A Walmart spokesman told CNBC that there are no purchase restrictions on pediatric pain and fever products.
Johnson&Johnsonone of the nation’s largest makers of children’s pain relievers, said it has ramped up production around the clock to meet unprecedented demand and is working with retailers to bring more supply to areas where demand is higher.
“While products may be less readily available in some stores, we are not seeing widespread shortages of children’s Tylenol or children’s Motrin,” a J&J spokesman said in a statement. “We recognize that this can be challenging for parents and carers and are doing everything we can to ensure people have access to the products they need.”
On Wednesday, the Biden administration said it would release doses of Tamiflu, the prescription antiviral flu drug, from national stockpiles to maintain adequate supplies during the current flu season. However, the government does not have a stockpile of over-the-counter medicines.
The FDA commissioner said his agency is working with manufacturers to ensure shipments of children’s medicines reach the areas where they are most needed. He added that sourcing more medicines is currently a challenge as other northern hemisphere countries are seeing similar demand.
“The overall supply is greater than ever, but the demand is even greater,” Califf said. “We haven’t seen the need, the demand is almost as high as at any time in our recorded history.”