Children’s medicine missing from Bay Area pharmacy shelves

An overwhelming demand for children’s fever-reducing medicines like Tylenol and Motrin this season has left store shelves empty and created frustration among parents.  

Several pharmacies in the Bay Area and across the state said they are expecting limited shipments this week as an increasing number of children are sick battling the flu, RSV or COVID.

“I went to two CVS pharmacies, then finally found some at Safeway,” mother Jessenia Vargas whose son was sick said. “It was a challenge so we kind of resorted to cough drops for kids versus medicine.”

San Diego pharmacist and former California Pharmacists Association President Ken Thai said the winter virus season is especially bad this year, creating a shortfall in medications.  

“I’d say in the last two and a half to three weeks, it has been out,” he said. ” Every wholesaler we can think of to get inventory has been saying there are no allocations, there’s nothing available.”

Thai said his pharmacy is lucky to get two bottles or boxes of children’s medicine a day.

The FDA is not reporting shortages of ibuprofen or acetaminophen – the active ingredients in those medicines.

Manufacturer Johnson and Johnson, which makes children’s Tylenol released a statement that said in part, “We are experiencing high consumer demand and are doing everything we can to make sure people have access to the products they need…We will continue to work with our retailers to provide Children’s TYLENOL® throughout the Cold & Flu Season.”

Doctors say some parents are stocking up on the medicines worried supplies may run out.

SEE ALSO: UCSF creates overflow accommodations for RSV, other respiratory infection cases

“I do think this year is different,” Dr. Ted O’Connell with Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center said. “We’re dealing with this so-called tri-demic of COVID plus RSV, plus flu.

O’Connell says he is aware over-the-counter medications being in short supply, but says symptoms for the viruses can be typically treated with an alternative or by modifying other versions of medication.

“There’s the possibility of talking with the pharmacist about doing the adult version of those medications and potentially being able to grind that up and put it into a liquid or something like applesauce,” he said.

For children dealing with symptoms other than fever, the doctor suggested more natural remedies.

SEE ALSO: CDC map shows where flu cases have spiked in the U.S.

Steam from a shower or a humidifier can help with congestion. Honey can soothe a sore throat. And a warm bath can ease muscle aches.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association told KTVU that while there may be limited out-of-stocks, the supply chain for over-the-counter products remains strong. The group is working with its members to direct product to areas in need.

“We’re doing our best to find solutions for our parents,” Thai said. “It’s not easy at all to look a parent in the face and say you really need this but we don’t have it.”

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU