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Walgreens, CVS limit sales of children's medications amid 'tripledemic'

Walgreens attributed the cap to demand and supplier challenges.
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CVS and Walgreens are limiting how many children’s pain relief medications people can buy at once amid a winter “tripledemic” of respiratory viruses, the companies said Monday.

In a statement, CVS said it is limiting the number of pain relief medications to two. Walgreens customers can buy six over-the-counter pediatric fever reducers, the company said in a statement.

“Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, over-the-counter pediatric fever reducing products are seeing constraint across the country,” Walgreens said.

The Walgreens store at State and Randolph Streets in Chicago on Aug. 17, 2022.Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

For CVS, the cap applies to products bought online or at pharmacies. At Walgreens, the limit is for online purchases only.

Walmart said in a statement that although the company has seen higher demand for pediatric medication this year, it has been able to meet that demand and no purchase limits are in place.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said the agency had been tracking surging demand for medication.

"Every operating division across HHS is engaged and playing a pivotal role in addressing these concerns," the spokesperson said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the Food and Drug Administration added that it can't require companies to manufacture medications, but it is working closely with drugmakers to "understand, mitigate and prevent or reduce the impact of intermittent or increased demand of certain products.

"The FDA understands that manufacturers expect availability to continue to increase in the near future," the statement said.

Doctors this fall saw an early surge in respiratory illnesses among young children, with babies and preschool-age kids catching the flu and other viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

Several children’s hospitals in the U.S. also recently detected a severe and invasive form of strep that has killed at least 15 children in the United Kingdom since mid-September.

As of Monday, 78% of the inpatient beds in nearly 5,000 hospitals across the country were filled, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly the same percentage of intensive care beds were in use, according to the data.

According to data posted Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people catching the flu remained high but had declined in some areas.

The agency recorded nine pediatric deaths last week, bringing the number of children who have died from the illness this season to 30. Overall, the agency estimated 150,000 flu hospitalizations and 9,300 deaths.

The respiratory viruses have hit young children hard because many remained at home after the coronavirus pandemic hit nearly three years ago, leaving their immune systems vulnerable to common illnesses, experts have said.