According to the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP), ongoing and active medication shortages are the highest they've been since 2014. If your child has recently had the flu or a cold, you may have experienced a medication shortage first-hand. as fever-reducing medication has become harder to find. Folasade Adesina, Manager of Pharmacy Operations at Children's Health℠, shares insights about the complex factors that cause medicine shortages and advice on what to do if you encounter a children's medication shortage in your area.
Why do medicine shortages occur?
"Medicine shortages occur when there is a disruption in one or more processes that make up the supply chain," explains Adesina. A supply chain is an end-to-end process in which raw materials become goods that consumers can buy from the shelf at their local store. When it comes to closely regulated medications, supply chains get even more complex – and typically include:
- Health care organizations
- Production of raw materials
- Regulators (including state and federal governments)
There are many factors that have and continue to contribute to the shortages. ASHP reports that, over the past year, the top two known reasons causing medication shortages are supply not meeting demand and disruption in manufacturing. Disruption in manufacturing includes:
- Lack of raw materials
- Product quality issues
- Short supply of items used to store and deliver drugs, such as glass and filters
Common medication shortages
“Drug supply shortages have impacted both prescription and over-the-counter classes of medicine,” explains Adesina. We commonly experience supply shortages of the following:
- Aerosolized medications for treating asthma, such as albuterol inhalation solution
- Antibiotics commonly used to treat pediatric bacterial infections, such as:
- Glycerin suppositories for constipation
- Pain relief medications, including:
- Sprays for soothing sore throats
What should I do if I can't find my child's medication?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists drug shortages on its website. "If a medication isn't on its list, the lack of supply may just be a temporary or a local distribution issue," says Adesina. "In this case, parents should check multiple stores or pharmacies in neighboring towns."
Adesina offers these tips for families who are impacted by a medication shortage:
- Get your child tested. It's important to understand if your child's symptoms are because of a viral illness or bacterial illness. Keep in mind that antibiotics do not work on viral infections.
- Consult your community pharmacists for available medication alternatives to help with your kid's symptoms. Ask your child's pediatrician to consider prescribing an alternative medication from a different drug class that can keep your child comfortable.
- Check with a compounding pharmacy. Some compounding pharmacies can mix the medication you need. However, a new prescription may be needed to make this alternative.
- Treating a fever. Remove excess clothing or blankets if your child has a fever. You can also put cold compresses under their armpits.
- Give your child plenty of fluids. If your child has a fever, offer plenty of fluids, including water and electrolyte-containing fluids.
- Look for generic medicine. Instead of using brand names, look for generic medicine such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- Contact your child's doctor. For kids who are impacted by asthma medication shortages, be sure to contact your child's primary care doctor or asthma specialist right away. It is essential for these children to have immediate access to their rescue medication in case of an emergency, and doctors can help you find an alternative.
- Do not administer medications meant for adults to children. Certain adult medications can cause harmful side effects in younger age groups.
- Do not self-prescribe an alternative medication. Always seek professional medical advice before substituting an unavailable medication with another.
Is medicine necessary to treat colds and flu?
There is no cure for the common cold and flu. However, medicines are useful in treating the symptoms and helping to make the child comfortable as their body heals from the virus. There are also several pediatrician-recommended home remedies that can provide your child with relief from cold and flu symptoms.
Get support during the medication shortage
When your child is sick, it can be scary to go to the store and not see the tried-and-true children's medication you're used to seeing on the shelf. If your child has a cold or flu and you can't find the medication you need, contact a Children's Health provider for advice on an alternative medicine or treatment.
Get care now
With pediatric urgent care locations around the metroplex, high-quality virtual care and two pediatric emergency rooms, Children's Health is nearby and ready to help when you need it most. Learn when to take your child to urgent care vs. the emergency room.
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