Alberta's first shipment of kids' pain reliever arrives

A first shipment of children's pain medication destined for Alberta hospitals has arrived but the province is still waiting for an order of bottles destined for pharmacies to arrive in the province.

250,000 bottles will be shipped to hospitals immediately

Canadian parents have often faced empty shelves in pharmacies for children's fever and pain medication. In December, Alberta announced it was ordering a five million bottles of children's medicines from Turkey to contend with shortages. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A shipment of children's pain medication destined for Alberta hospitals has arrived but the province is still awaiting the arrival of another order of kids' medications that will be distributed for sale at pharmacies.

The Alberta government said Wednesday its first shipment of children's liquid acetaminophen it ordered arrived at the Edmonton International Airport. The medication will be distributed to hospitals immediately.

In a news release, the province said the 250,000 bottles will bolster supply to hospitals in the province, making sure access to medication is not delayed. 

"I am so pleased that we have been able to secure additional children's medicine for our hospitals," said Premier Danielle Smith in a statement. 

"But we cannot and will not rest with this first shipment. We need approval of the rest of the medication so parents can use them at home." 

In December, Smith announced the province was ordering a total of five million bottles of children's medicines from Atabay Pharmaceuticals in Turkey.

The announcement came as hospitals were under strain from a spike in several respiratory illnesses and pharmacies across the province reported shortages of cold and flu medications.

The government says when an additional supply of 4.75 million bottles with child-proof caps arrives they will be distributed to pharmacies for sale to the public at usual retail prices. 

To receive Health Canada approval, the manufacturer was required to submit a proposal to Health Canada. Health Canada reviewed the proposal and requested additional information and a number of changes to meet Canada's regulatory requirements, the province said. 

One of these changes was the need to add child-proof caps to the bottles for the retail use.

The final requirement for child-proof caps has been addressed and the manufacturer has provided all information requested by Health Canada, the province said. 

Alberta's government is now awaiting Health Canada's approval of the remaining 4.75 million bottles for retail sale across the province.

"We're in the midst of an exceptionally difficult winter, made more stressful for parents by the shortage of basic medications," Smith said.

"Kids and families are waiting for these medications and we need Health Canada to approve them without further delay."

The cost of Alberta's medication purchase has not been released.

In Wednesday's statement, the province said it paid "a small premium" over the expected retail price to secure the shipments.

When the medications to be sold at pharmacies arrive, they will be sold "at prices in line with the usual retail price," the government said.