Alberta-procured children's medication from Türkiye on its way to pharmacies
A fresh supply of children's pain and fever medicine is being distributed to Alberta pharmacies, the health minister says, with enough stock received to last for two years to prevent future supply shortages.
In December, faced with national shortages of cold and flu medication for children, the provincial government ordered five million bottles of medicine from Turkish Atabay Pharmaceuticals.
In an update Monday, Premier Danielle Smith said she read letters from desperate parents seeking pain relief for their kids and heard how some even travelled to Mexico or the U.S. to get needed medication during the peak shortage.
"For months, I heard gut-wrenching stories from frustrated parents who can't access children's pain and fever medications," the premier said.
"It's taken longer than we hoped for," Smith said. "I want parents to know that your government has heard you, and I truly hope that this supply will provide a little bit more comfort and relief to your families."
One-third of that order has been shipped to Alberta, around 700,000 bottles, with some pharmacies already having bottles on their shelves and others receiving stock in the coming days.
SUPPLY CHAIN REMAINS UNCERTAIN: COPPING
The primary shipment, approximately 250,000 units, was provided to hospitals first in January to "stabilize" their stocks, Alberta's health minister said.
"We have a supply now for a couple years," explained Minister Jason Copping. "The supply chain still remains uncertain, even though the federal government did bring in some more bottles, it quite frankly wasn't enough."
The product, called Parol Suspension, comes in an orange box and can be used to treat pain and fever symptoms in children. It will be kept behind the counter at Alberta pharmacies, with no purchase limits per family.
Pharmacist Chandan Sangha said the bottles come with a dosing spoon, but parents can request an oral syringe if they prefer.
Sangha shared how over the winter, he and colleagues across the country tried to help parents seeking pain medication for their children as much as they could, often relying on alternative regimes or compounded drugs.
"We were getting questions from the time that we would open to the time that we would close, whether it was a weekend or an evening, it didn't matter," he added. "And unfortunately, a lot of the time, it was no."
"It puts a strain on a lot of our hearts," he recalled, adding that he is happy that supply has been secured for the next two years.
COST AND DOSAGE QUESTIONS
Copping said the production contract and import of the medication are expected to cost around $80 million, with $10 million going toward administration costs, shipping and waste disposal.
When asked by reporters, the health minister confirmed the province didn't solicit bids from other suppliers, but "went looking" for available supply. For now, Alberta is the only external international jurisidiction Atabay is providing medication to.
"This was the only company that we could actually secure supply because there is a shortage around the world," Copping said. "Thanks again to the folks at AHS for reaching out and finding the supplier and making this agreement."
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping provides an update about the availability of children's cold and flu medication the province procured itself on Monday, March 20, 2023 (CTV News Edmonton/Brandon Lynch).
The province will subsidize a portion of the total cost of each bottle to ensure it is priced similarly to other children's pain and fever medication, Copping shared. The suggested retail price is around $12.
Individual pharmacies will determine the final sale price, but the health minister said the province would monitor to ensure it is priced within a similar range of equivalent medications.
A further two shipments of children's acetaminophen and ibuprofen will arrive by the end of the month and be available after a quarantine process. Conversations with other provinces to purchase stock from Alberta are ongoing, the health minister said.
A bulletin sent to Alberta pharmacists last week communicated how the Turkish medicine, while approved by Health Canada, contains a lower concentration of Acetaminophen than other Canadian equivalents.
"It's not atypical for different dosages to be out there," Copping affirmed, adding that pharmacists will explain this to parents as they purchase the medication.
"Parents and caregivers can be assured that these medications are as effective and meet the same safety standards as other brands they are used to seeing in the store."
The Official Opposition criticized the speed at which the province procured the children's medication, saying it came "far too late."
"Last year, when the lack of children’s pain relief medication drove many families to the emergency room, where they were met with wait times of up to 17 hours at children’s hospitals, the UCP failed to immediately respond to the crisis," said Rakhi Pancholi, children's services critic.
"Now, a small portion of the medication they procured has arrived too late to address the problem and will have to be kept behind the counter because it comes in non-standard doses," Pancholi added. "And the province is on the hook for another 4.5 million bottles still on the way."
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Matt Woodman and Alex Antoneshyn
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