Pharmacy chains limit sales of flu, cold medicine amidst rise in respiratory illness

Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 8:10 PM EST
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - With the triple threat of the flu, RSV and COVID-19, pharmacies are seeing a shorter supply of over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and Tylenol, especially for children.

In response, pharmacies across the commonwealth are in short supply of certain medicines, and stores are beginning to limit how many medicines customers can buy at once.

CVS is now restricting purchases of children’s pain relief products to just two at a time, both online and in person. Walgreens has implemented a purchase limit of six per customer for pediatric meds, but only online.

Multiple pharmacies in the greater Richmond area cited supply chain issues coupled with panic buying before the Christmas holiday as a primary culprit of the shortages in store, but Dr. Sean McKenna with the Children’s Hospital of Richmond says over-the-counter drugs aren’t a magic bullet.

“We are used to seeing a lot of kids get sick this time of year, but what we did see was a little unusual this year that everything kind of hit all at once,” McKenna said.

McKenna says while parents should always be concerned when their children experience high fevers, they should be more focused on signs like if their child is not eating, experiencing extreme fatigue, or having issues using the bathroom for several days after medication and other measures have been taken.

“For things like ibuprofen and Tylenol, we certainly don’t need those,” McKenna said. “They certainly can be helpful medication’s when we’re hurting, and they can help us hurt less, But what has happened over the years is that we become afraid of fevers. Within our bodies are immune system is doing thousands, maybe millions of different things all at once to try to fight off this infection. In the little that we might add by, giving the kid the medication that you can buy over-the-counter really won’t make that critical difference.”

McKenna says parents should not underestimate the effectiveness of ensuring a child receives plenty of rest and fluids, which he says can often be more beneficial than relying on medication alone.

If you still need over-the-counter medicine and don’t see it on the shelf, consider going to a compounding pharmacy like Midlothian Apothecary, Buford Road Pharmacy and Bremo Pharmacy. Those locations can make ibuprofen and Tylenol for children and compound acetaminophen suppositories for children or adults with trouble swallowing medication. There is a limit to who is eligible to receive them.

According to Bremo Pharmacy, the person receiving the compounding medication must have a doctor’s prescription. Because the drug is made on the spot, it would not be covered by insurance, meaning customers would also have to pay more out-of-pocket to receive it.

In addition, for a pharmacy to make the medicine, it first must be on the FDA drug shortage list.