Parents, hospitals still feel shortage of children's Tylenol and Motrin

Nationwide medicine shortage worries U.S. parents amid tridemic (Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Nationwide medicine shortage worries U.S. parents amid tridemic (Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A national shortage of children's Tylenol and Motrin spurred by the surge in respiratory illnesses late last year continues to frustrate Massachusetts families and health care institutions.

Through the shortage, parents have taken to social media to detail their struggles. Some parents have tried their luck searching smaller convenience stores, and experts have recommended they reach out to neighbors who might have extra meds handy.  And, some local hospitals also reported difficulty finding the medications.

Boston Children's Hospital temporarily changed the way it sourced acetaminophen and ibuprofen, the drugs in Tylenol and Motrin, respectively.

Shannon Manzi, director of safety and quality at Boston Children's pharmacy department, said her hospital used to be able to purchase individual doses, but switched to buying bulk orders.

"We've been able to squeak by," she said, adding the hospital has started to see supplies increase as illness rates drop.

However, it's unclear whether supplies of the over-the-counter fever and pain reducers are improving everywhere.

Last week, the shortage prompted Massachusetts lawmakers to send a letter to Johnson & Johnson, the main producer of infant and children's Tylenol and Motrin, demanding answers to a series of questions by Jan. 20.

"In recent public statements, Johnson & Johnson reported an increase in production to meet growing demand. However, our constituents are still visiting store after store only to find empty shelves," read the letter from Jan. 12.

Among several questions, the letter — signed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark, Lori Trahan and Ayanna Pressley — asked the manufacturer, the following:

  • When it became aware of the shortage;
  • On what date it voluntarily provided notice to the nation's Food and Drug Administration;
  • How much it has increased its production;
  • When the products would become available as normal in Massachusetts.

Health experts caution against giving Tylenol and Motrin dosed for adults, or substitutes like aspirin, to children.


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Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.


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