Approval for new source of children’s medicine days away, Alberta health minister says

Alberta’s health minister says Health Canada’s approval of a new source of children’s pain and fever medication should be just days away.

Minister Jason Copping says a cache of five million bottles of children’s formulations of acetaminophen and ibuprofen can begin making their way from a Turkish manufacturer to Alberta once two outstanding issues are resolved.

“Is it worth it? Absolutely. We still don’t have products on the shelves,” Copping said at an unrelated health announcement in Calgary on Wednesday.

Copping said the unresolved issues remain Health Canada’s approval of the packaging and approval of the Turkish factory.

For months, Canadian parents and guardians have been frustrated by a shortage of pain relievers sold in children’s dosages, in liquid and chewable tablet forms.

The demand is driven by a nasty respiratory virus season, as the country grapples with the outbreaks of influenza, COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus and other infections.

Since November, the federal government has imported nearly 1.9 million bottles of children’s pain relievers from the U.S. and Australia, and more is coming, according to Health Canada spokesperson Anna Maddison.

Hospitals and shops have limited supplies of the drugs, and many pharmacies are keeping the medication behind the counter to prevent hoarding.

On Dec. 6, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced Alberta Health Services had found a supplier, named Atabay, which could provide five million doses of children’s acetaminophen and ibuprofen to the province.

However, the products would first need to be approved by Health Canada.

“The process is almost complete,” Copping said on Wednesday, adding he hoped to have more information on the timing of shipping and distribution soon.

In an email Tuesday, Maddison said Health Canada had prioritized Alberta’s submission for review.

She said the agency reviews whether products are safe, effective and comparable to others approved for Canadian use, that the supply chain networks are legitimate, and that packaging and labelling — including cautions and warnings, dosing instructions and ingredients — are available in both French and English.

“This work ensures that any potential health risks are mitigated and information is clearly communicated to Canadians,” she said.

Copping said since Alberta’s announcement of the deal earlier this month, other provinces have reached out and are interested in buying some of the products.

“I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it, which is where we are right now,” Copping said.

He said the medicine will come in 10 shipments of about 500,000 bottles at a time.

The provincial government hasn’t released a cost of the deal. Earlier this month, a spokesperson said the government hoped to recoup much of the expense by reselling the products to pharmacies and other provinces, but that there would be a premium to pay for the rapid production of the medicine.

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