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Alberta secures 5 million bottles of children's pain and fever meds to distribute across province, then country


Alberta Health Services has procured five million bottles of children's acetaminophen and ibuprofen and will distribute the drugs first across the province, then across Canada, the Alberta government says.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Health Minister Jason Copping made the announcement Tuesday morning, speaking at a downtown Edmonton drug store.

"In the days ahead, we will be working closely with Alberta Health Services and Health Canada to expedite the approval process and get this additional supply to Canada and onto Alberta pharmacy shelves and into hospitals as quickly as possible," Copping told reporters.

"Once approvals are in place, we should only be a few weeks. The medication will be sent to us in a number of shipments. When a shipment is received, the bottles will be available for ordering by pharmacies across the province and distributed within a couple of days."

Smith added, "You can feel confident that we are all moving as quickly as we can so Alberta families can get what they need."

The Alberta government is expecting to pay a premium for the drugs and will subsidize the cost so that pharmacies can sell them "at the average retail price."

A final price tag was not available on Tuesday, as the government was still finalizing its contract with the supplier. 

The supplier, Atabay Pharmaceuticals and Fine Chemicals, has sold to dozens of markets in Europe and around the world for decades, Smith and Copping said.


According to Copping, once Alberta pharmacies and hospitals are stocked, the province will work with Health Canada to determine how to share the remaining supply with other jurisdictions.

The medication still needs to be manufactured. Then, Copping expects Health Canada's approval to import the medication will take two to three weeks, with shipments to Alberta starting soon after that.

"We're going to be working very hard at that and, again, have had conversations with the federal government to fast-track the approvals, so the good news is this is not an unknown entity to Health Canada," Copping said of the medication supplier. "They've already provided the certificates on that and again, pleased to be working with the federal government to move this as quickly as possible."

Drug shortages in Canada dating back to last spring have been exacerbated in recent months by soaring demand amid surges of flu, RSV and COVID-19 cases, as well as lingering pandemic supply chain snags, The Canadian Press has reported.

On Tuesday, a House of Commons health committee criticized Health Canada officials for not handling the situation more quickly or effectively. As many as 800 drugs – including 23 that are considered critical – are currently in short supply in Canada, Linsey Hollett, the director of health product compliance for Health Canada, told the committee.


The drug procurement comes as Alberta's hospital system is struggling to handle the rise in illness, especially at children's hospitals.

In recent days, the government has redeployed staff and taken other steps to increase capacity, but Smith said the pain and fever medication is part of her plan, too.

"That is why we want to make sure parents have access to the medication that they need, because if they can't break the fever, they end up in the hospital rooms, and that is what's causing the pressures in our hospitals not here, but across the entire country," Smith said. "I think that our job in providing health services is to make sure that people have the medication that they need so they can treat at home and also make sure that the hospitals are able to deal with patients efficiently when they show up."

Pharmacies will be able to sell the product from behind the counter if they are concerned about hoarding, government officials said. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Saif Kaisar and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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