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Retailers limiting children’s OTC pain relief products

As cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV tick up, amid a scarcity of OTC children’s pain relief products at certain locations, retailers have begun to institute product limits.

As cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV tick up, amid a scarcity of OTC children’s pain relief products at certain retail locations, retailers, including CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have instituted product limits.

A CVS spokesperson shared with Drug Store News that to ensure equitable access for all of its customers, there is currently a two-product limit on all children’s pain relief products at all CVS Pharmacy locations and online. 

We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items,” the spokesperson said.

A Walgreens spokesperson provided the following statement to DSN: “Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, over-the-counter pediatric fever-reducing products are seeing constraints across the country. In an effort to help support availability and avoid excess purchases, we put into effect an online-only purchase limit of six per online transaction for all over-the-counter pediatric fever reducers."

[Read more: Walgreens offering flu, COVID-19 testing in single visit at over 5,000 locations]

“Walgreens works diligently to anticipate and avoid product shortages where possible by partnering with new and current suppliers and distributors to minimize the impact and inconvenience for our patients and customers. For customers looking for items, our website updates with the latest available store inventory information frequently throughout the day. Additionally, Walgreens same day delivery and pickup provide contactless options for receiving products,” the spokesperson said. 

A Rite Aid spokesperson shared with DSN, "We do not have in-store purchasing limits on these products at this time. As for online, we have limits on the 4 oz. grape flavor of Children’s Tylenol only — and that purchase limit is 5. All other flavors and varieties of Children’s Tylenol do not have any limits on the website.

We are experiencing high demand of pediatric and adult over-the-counter cold/flu medication and fever reducer/pain reliever due to high illness incidence. We are working closely with suppliers to meet the demand and mitigate shortages where possible. If customers don’t see their preferred cold/flu treatment products on the shelf, they should speak with the pharmacist for recommendations on other OTC options that best suit their needs,” The Rite Aid spokesperson said. 

A spokesperson for Walmart shared with DSN, “While we have seen increased demand for pediatric OTC pain medications this year, Walmart is able to continue meeting the needs of our customers and offer several options in the pediatric pain category both in store and online. We do not have purchase limits on these items.

A Stop & Shop spokesperson shared with DSN, Stop & Shop is not currently placing product limits on over-the-counter pain relievers.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association shared its latest statement on the current supply issues, noting that, “Supplies of these products are being replenished as quickly as possible, and there is not a widespread shortage in the United States. However, with demand for children’s pain and fever medicines reaching unprecedented levels following this early and severe flu season (along with cases of RSV and COVID), we understand why some retailers have adjusted to impose limits on purchases. This prevents “stock ups” and ensures the availability of these products to as many consumers as possible. This is the earliest peak in influenza we have seen in more than a decade. As a result, sales of pediatric internal analgesics are up 65% compared to the same time last year.

CHPA noted that while CHPA member companies are running manufacturing facilities 24-7 to meet demand, the organization will continue to encourage consumers to buy only what they need, so other families can find and purchase the medicines they are seeking.

Lastly, CHPA said it is encouraged by new figures from the CDC that flu cases in the US have declined for the third straight week and said it hopes this will ease the demand for pediatric medicines in the near future.

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"As always, we encourage parents concerned about a child with a respiratory illness and fever to contact their pediatrician or another healthcare provider for additional guidance, including when it comes to an appropriate amount of medicine needed to get them through this flu season," CHPA said.

In an interview on Dec. 16 on Today, Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 coordinator said that The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services are tracking the situation very closely. "The good news here is that we have plenty of supply. ... Manufacturers, they're working 24/7. Supply is actually up. The challenge is demand."

Jha noted that influenza, COVID-19 and RSV are all circulating "at high levels." "COVID-19 and flu cases are rising, and while RSV may have peaked, it's still sickening young children and old adults across the country," Jha told Today.

"That demand is really unusual, unlike what we've seen in years, so we are seeing some of those mismatches," Jha said. "But the supply is working great, manufacturing is going great, and we're going to keep plugging away at making sure that there's plenty of supply across the country as we enter the holidays," Jha told Today.

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