Department store chain Target has decided to restrict the sales of over-the-counter pain and fever medication for children as the United States faces the challenge of a “tripledemic” and health care systems struggle with drug shortages.
“Tripledemic” refers to three illnesses—COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—that are spreading during the winter season, with RSV and flu cases mainly affecting children. This has created a run on pain relievers like ibuprofen which is sold under the names Motrin and Advil, as well as acetaminophen sold under the brand name, Tylenol.
Target has now limited the purchase of Tylenol, Motrin, and Advil to just two per transaction on both its website as well as for in-store shopping.
“We continue to closely monitor the industry-wide supply constraints of this category and are working with our vendors to increase supply,” a Target spokesperson told DailyMail.
The issue started after antibiotic manufacturers like Sandoz, Teva, and Hikma pharmaceuticals began reporting shortages of medications mainly owing to the company’s failure to anticipate the early rise in respiratory diseases. The shortage situation has since escalated.
Target now joins pharmacy giants like Walgreen and CVS who have restricted the sale of over-the-counter pediatric drugs. Walgreen allows customers to buy only six boxes of medication at a time. Meanwhile, CVS allows two boxes of drugs to be purchased both online and in-store.
Health Care Struggling
In an interview with Axios, Sarah Ash Combs, an emergency department physician at Children’s National Hospital, said that health care providers are now beginning to see a “knock-on effect.”
When the drug amoxicillin became scarce, they went with the drug augmentin. But now, augmentin is becoming scarce.
“That definitely affects us in the emergency department because these are the types of things we prescribe for kids to go home with and we get calls … with the parent saying: ‘I’m at my third pharmacy and they don’t have amoxicillin. They don’t have augmentin. What do I do?’” she said.
In Utah, which is seeing its worst flu season in ten years, stores are running out of Tylenol. Pharmacists are attempting to reformulate adult doses of drugs like Tamiflu.
Certain health care providers are creating online tutorials to educate parents about re-dosing adult drugs for children. However, some doctors are warning Americans not to substitute adult medicines for children.
“It can be fatal. And so, vigilance about the number of medications you have and where that are stored and making sure that they’re locked properly is really important,” Dr. Shawn Sood, a pediatrician at the University of Kansas Health System, said to KMBC.
In a Dec. 21 press release, Washington-based Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) said that manufacturers are operating at “maximum capacity” to replenish the demand for children’s medication.
The demand for these products has risen by 65 percent when compared to the same period a year ago.
“Our member companies are also focused on ensuring equitable distribution of these medicines to retailers, working with them to direct product to locations where it is needed most, while at the same time doing everything possible to make sure hospitals have children’s pain and fever reducers on hand,” it said.
CHPA asked Americans to only buy medications in quantities that they need so that other families can also have access to the drugs.