Drugstore chains limit purchases of children’s pain-relief medicine

The unusually rapid start to the winter cold-and-flu season has parents stocking up on Children’s Tylenol and other pediatric medications, leading major pharmacy chains to limit purchases of the products.  

The moves come amid a spike in respiratory illnesses among children, with the country facing a “tripledemic” with cases of the flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) rising simultaneously as winter approaches. 

The efforts to ensure the medicines are available to as many as possible make sense, given the increased demand, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, or CHPA. 

“This is the earliest peak in influenza we have seen in more than a decade. As a result, sales of pediatric internal analgesics are up 65% compared to the same time last year,” the trade group stated.

“There are more sick kids at this time of year than we have seen in the past couple years,” Dr. Shannon Dillon, a pediatrician at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis, told the Associated Press.

Still, “there is not a widespread shortage” and drugmakers are running their manufacturing facilities around the clock to replenish supplies, CHPA said.

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Product limits

CVS Health has a two-product limit in place on all kids’ over-the-counter fever-reducing products at its more than 9,000 pharmacies, as well as online, it confirmed to CBS MoneyWatch. 

Walgreens is limiting online purchases to six OTC fever reducers for each transaction. Rite Aid is limiting online purchases of the 4-ounce grape flavor Children’s Tylenol to a four-item maximum. 

“Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, over-the-counter pediatric fever-reducing products are seeing constraint across the country,” Walgreens told CBS MoneyWatch in an emailed statement. The restrictions now in place are “an effort to help support availability and avoid excess purchases,” added the Deerfield, Illinois-based company, which runs nearly 9,000 U.S. locations.

“We are experiencing high demand of pediatric and adult over-the-counter cold/flu medication and fever reducer/pain reliever due to high illness incidence,” Rite Aid stated in an email. 

People who don’t find what they need on store shelves should ask the pharmacists for other options, advised the Philadelphia-based drugstore chain, which runs more than 2,200 stores across the country.

Beyond over-the-counter products, the prescription antibiotic amoxicillin is also in short supply due to increased demand, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The drug is often used to treat nose and throat infections in children.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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