Parents call out Children's Tylenol price gouging amid nationwide shortage — and experts weigh in on how to cope

An empty shelf at Walgreens, with a sign saying: We're sorry. Due to supplier shortages, some products are unavailable, but we have other products with the same FDA-approved active ingredients. Walgreens
An empty shelf at Walgreens, which just announced that its stores are limiting purchases of Children's Tylenol amid reported shortages. (Photo: Getty Images)

For weeks, parents have circulated photos on social media of bare pharmacy shelves where Children's Tylenol and other popular fever-reducing medications should be. Amazon is completely out of Children's Tylenol — a rare occurrence — while CVS and Walgreens are out of stock online. The Food and Drug Administration is not officially reporting a shortage of Children's Tylenol (or its generic name, acetaminophen), but the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), an organization that analyzes information from manufacturers and other sources, lists shortages of acetaminophen suppositories. Still, parents in search of pain-relieving medications for their kids have witnessed something different.

One mom of three said on Twitter that she "went to six stores, saw the same moms at the stores all w/kids with high fevers they can't treat," noting that there were "babies with ear infections SCREAMING and getting no pain relief, moms crying in the aisles at CVS with no hope."

The shortages are happening at a time when waves of flu, RSV and COVID-19 are circulating rapidly across the country. Now, price gouging is happening online. One website is offering a two-pack of Children's Tylenol for $35 (it's typically around $8 a box), while another lists a case of Infant's Tylenol for $237.83.

Parents have also reported price gouging on Twitter. "It’s pretty rage-inducing to have a sick kid, to have very few stores have any children’s medicine and to see this price gouging garbage. $21 for 4 ounces of Children’s Tylenol," one wrote.

Another noted some "cray price gouging" at Amazon, alongside a screenshot of Tylenol retailing for nearly $60 for two bottles. (Worth noting: They're no longer available.)

Betsy Harden, a spokesperson for Amazon, tells Yahoo Life, “Customers expect to find low prices in our store, and we work to meet this expectation every day. We continuously compare the prices submitted by our selling partners with current and historic prices inside and outside our store, to determine if prices are fair. If we identify a price that violates our policy, we remove the offer and take appropriate action with the seller.” In 2020, amid the early stages of the COVID pandemic, when demand was high for everything from toilet paper to soup, and price gouging was rampant, the retail giant issued a statement noting that it has a "zero-tolerance" policy and long-standing systems to prevent this harmful practice.

"Amazon strictly prohibits sellers from exploiting an emergency by charging excessively high prices on products and shipping," the statement noted, adding that more than half of the products on Amazon are offered by third-party sellers who set their own prices, and that a majority of them are honest. "Amazon strictly prohibits sellers from exploiting an emergency by charging excessively high prices on products and shipping."

In response to the high demand, both CVS and Walgreens have limited purchases of these medications. "To ensure equitable access for all our customers, there is currently a two-product limit on all children’s pain relief products at all CVS Pharmacy locations and," CVS spokesperson Matt Blanchette tells Yahoo Life. "We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items."

A Walgreens spokesperson tells Yahoo Life that "While Walgreens continues to have products to support our customers and patients, we have put into effect an online-only purchase limit of six per online transaction, to prevent excess purchasing behavior."

So, what can you do if you're a parent? Experts recommend looking beyond brand names you know. "Generics are perfectly acceptable," Dr. Jamie Alan, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Life. "The generic equivalents meet FDA regulations and will work just as well."

Brands like Little Remedies are lesser known but still offer things like acetaminophen, and Alan says you're just fine to use them — if you can find them. Just be sure to read the labeling carefully and ask for help if you're unsure what you're looking at. "Ask your doctor or pharmacist," Alan says. "Sometimes they have 'herbal' medication. This is not the same as Tylenol or Motrin."

Another option to consider is chewable and oral-dissolving tablets of pediatric doses, Stephanie Field, director of pharmacy business operations at Corewell Health, tells Yahoo Life. You may be able to crush the tablets up and serve them to your child in applesauce, for example, Alan says.

Some people online have mentioned using Bravecare to try to dose adult medications for children, but experts say this isn't a good idea. "Adult concentrations of medications should not be used as an alternative when pediatric cannot be found," Field warns.

If you've searched around and are coming up empty-handed, Alan recommends reaching out to the office of your child's pediatrician. It may have some samples available or be able to direct you to places that have Tylenol in stock.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that is selling a case of Children's Tylenol for $237.83, not a two-pack.

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