Local pharmacies struggle to stock cold, flu medications due to shortages

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — An early flu season combined with a rise in pediatric respiratory illnesses has led to some people frantically searching store shelves for medication that is difficult to find due to shortages.

Local pharmacies in Wisconsin and across the nation are having a series of supply issues of key medications to treat the flu, sore throats and other common illness in children.

Hashim Zaibak, CEO of Hyatt Pharmacy in Milwaukee, said he’s been busy calling manufactures for the past two weeks to keep his shelves stocked. The hot commodity right now is the antiviral drug Tamiflu, used to ease flu symptoms in adults and children.

“Our primary wholesaler is completely out,” Zaibak said. “They have no liquid, no capsules.”

The Food and Drug Administration predicts these shortages are expected to last the next few months.  

“With Tamiflu, there’s nothing else like it on the market,” said Zaibak. “Hopefully they will be able to resolve the issue soon.”

Hyatt and Neuhauser Pharmacy in Madison are also both struggling to restock cold medication, Ibuprofen and even cough drops this holiday season. Zaibak recommends if you have some of these over-the-counter medications at home, only use them when necessary because “it’s like liquid gold.”

Health professionals have phrased the term “tripledemic” with RSV, flu and Covid all circulating at high levels. The CDC reports about two-thirds of the United States is reporting either “high” or “very high” flu activity levels.

With more people gathering post-pandemic, and fewer people wearing a mask, experts say sickness is spreading more rapidly this year.

Doctors at UW-Health said they are seeing an uptick in patients coming into their emergency room.

“Just the past two weeks, we’ve seen a real dramatic increase in the number of patients who are testing positive for influenza, and some are being hospitalized,” said Gregory DeMuri, Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician at UW Health Kids.

With many respiratory illnesses circulating, DeMuri recommends taking a Covid and flu test to rule out what you might be experiencing. If both tests are negative and symptoms worsen, call your doctor or seek treatment from a medical professional, DeMuri said.

Health professionals are also encouraging people to get their flu shot and Covid booster to help better protect themselves and others.