How an Austin pharmacy is tackling a shortage of Tylenol for babies

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Since the start of cold and flu season in November, Tarrytown Pharmacy in Austin has been receiving calls from parents looking for Tylenol for babies and children. This comes amid a nationwide shortage of children’s medicines, as well as a rise in the “triple sickness” of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases.

“What’s happening is that there’s a lot of demand and not a lot of supply for the products themselves,” said Rannon Ching, chief pharmacist at Tarrytown Pharmacy. “When we go to our customer companies, where we buy our over-the-counter products, our prescription drugs, we look at how much is in stock and nothing is there.”

When supply levels are limited, pharmacy suppliers sometimes introduce a distribution system whereby each pharmacy can only order a certain number of units. Because of these allocations, this could result in a high level of demand with limited relief.

“We were able to keep the king down with a slow trickle of some ibuprofen products, but it was much more difficult with Tylenol,” he said. “We just really hear from a lot of people just calling, [saying] that it is not available at your local pharmacy or grocery store chain. So they’re trying to find anyone who does.”

While children’s medicine has caught people’s attention, Ching said it’s not the only medicine that’s in short supply. People trying to replenish first aid kits during the height of allergy season are also finding empty shelves where Mucinex and Delsym cough syrups once stood. There may still be other generic cold and nasal congestion medicines in the supply, but not the same volume of well-known branded products or dosage types that were once offered.

Ching said Tarrytown has been expanding its compounding services since the start of the pandemic to expand its supply of products. When the coronavirus pandemic began, its shaping was focused primarily on consumables like hand sanitizer.

While Tarrytown can mix Tylenol and ibuprofen, Ching said they can only offer it to prescription customers because the Food and Drug Administration has not declared Tylenol shortages for infants and children “a real national debt.”

For parents looking for child-safe medicines, Ching recommended that families contact their child’s pediatrician for a prescription, which Tarrytown can then fulfill.

“Because the FDA hasn’t declared this a true national shortage, we can mix ibuprofen and acetaminophen,” he said. “However, it still requires a prescription, and so it just leads to some bureaucracy about how freely we can distribute certain composite items.”

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