A shortage of cold and flu medicines leaves Ottawa pharmacy shelves empty

If you’re wondering about the rate of illness in the city of Ottawa, look no further than pharmacy shelves, in some cases deprived of all cold and flu remedies, as a wave of COVID infections continues.

In the capital, bare shelves are a common sight at pharmacies selling cold and flu medicines that are in high demand but in short supply across the country.

“We are not only seeing an increase in demand, but also some supply disruptions,” said Jen Belcher of the Ontario Pharmacists Association.

“Been to (at the local pharmacy) for the past week, back and forth, nothing on the shelves, went again today and nothing on the shelves,” said Ottawa resident Monica Bilkhu.

Bilkhu and her family drove through the city on Friday looking for medicine for her ailing nine-year-old daughter.

“We’ve been very lucky in Greely and got some Tylenol and Advil there, but we’ve been running around town like crazy trying to find medicine for our kids. Kind of frustrating, I’m not going to lie,” she said.

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” said Andrew Hanna, compounding pharmacist and owner of Pharmasave Avalon in Orleans.

Hanna has compounded drugs, essentially creating alternatives in-house.

“We just play it by ear, and if we can put something together to help the audience, we’re there for them.”

But putting together is not always an option. In a statement to CTV News, Shoppers Drug Mart said the increase in demand, “In addition to the delivery issues experienced by our supplier partners, has sometimes caused stores to wait longer for their next shipment.”

“What’s worrying is that we don’t really have a timeline for when many of these products will be back and we know a lot of people turn to them when they feel unwell to help them feel more comfortable when you have a cold, a flu or COVID-19,” Belcher said.

And so amid a new wave of COVID in the capital, accessing drugs to relieve some of the symptoms can be challenging.

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