Jan 10, 2023 - Podcasts

Why there's still not enough children's Tylenol

Many parents around the U.S. still can't find children's Tylenol and Motrin — after a shortage began weeks ago in the middle of the "tripledemic" of flu, RSV and COVID.

  • Plus, the effort to restore order in Brazil.

Guests: Axios' Dave Lawler and Tina Reed.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, January 10th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: the effort to restore order in Brazil…and what the attack on the capital signals to the world. But first, why there’s still not enough children’s Tylenol — that’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: Many parents around the U.S. still can't find children's Tylenol and Motrin, after a shortage began weeks ago, right in the middle of this “tripledemic” of flu, RSV and Covid. Some of you have been telling us how hard this has been.

ADAM: My name is Adam from Weaverville, which is just north of Asheville in North Carolina. I was fortunate enough to be walking through Target and found their last children's Tylenol, sheer luck. But yeah, it's been tricky over the last few months.

SARAH: My name is Sarah and I'm in Greenville, South Carolina. My six-year-old had an emergency appendectomy in early December. We were supposed to use Tylenol as pain management when we got home for him to recover and could not find any. My husband scoured multiple pharmacies including Walmart even and could not find any at all.

SHERRY: Hi, this is Sherry from California. I'm a nurse practitioner and when I heard about the Tylenol shortage, I became very concerned because children's Tylenol is one that most parents are very familiar with, they know how to dose it. Fear too is that they may grab something else over the counter that has Tylenol or acetaminophen in it, that their child based on their age should really not be taking, because of the shortage.

NIALA: Axios’ Healthcare editor Tina Reed has the story. Tina, how did this happen?

TINA REED: The short answer is this has just been a really awful respiratory virus season. It's not just that it's hit really hard, but it hit really early this year. And so that actually started creating a ripple effect throughout the U.S. in terms of getting some of these medications that we commonly would use. The sales were up 65% in November, 2022, over the same month in 2021. We don't have December numbers yet, but we're expecting they'll probably be very similar. At the same time, these companies have really upped their production levels for these products. They're up 35% to 50% higher than they were this time, a year ago. And they simply just can't keep up.

NIALA: I was texting with Axios Today listeners about this yesterday and hearing from people all over the country. And the common theme was parents saying they have to drive very far away or call, spend hours on the phone trying to find a place that has the medication. What happens to the families that can't do that?

TINA: The one thing I heard over and over again was that doctors really feel for parents and they really just suggested, not forgetting the basics when it comes to helping their kids feel better, helping them fight their fevers. That it's not necessarily required that they get Motrin or Tylenol as much as it is helpful. And so they suggested using cold compresses, lowering the temperature of the room, in general keeping your kid well hydrated throughout the day. So the bottom line is really, well it's really tough being a parent not being able to make your kids feel better with these medications. If they can't get them, pediatricians remind us that the vast majority of kids really will be fine without them.

NIALA: Is there any end in sight at this point?

TINA: Unfortunately, we don't see an end in sight for this particular shortage. There are some alternatives that experts recommend. They suggest casting a wide net in the affected areas, including big box stores, wholesalers, discount chains, places where people might not typically look, outside of their typical pharmacies. They're also saying that people should look to alternatives to the popular liquid versions of fever reducers. So for instance, older children might be able to take the chewable form and in fact if they do, that might be helpful to make that liquid form available to the younger kids. One other thing I heard was that parents may consider consulting their family doctor or their pediatrician about whether there's a safe and appropriate dose of an adult formula for their child, but they stressed that parents should absolutely not wing it when it comes to this, they should get medical consultation if they're going to try this.

NIALA: Axios’ Healthcare Editor Tina Reed. Thanks, Tina.

TINA: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: In a moment the turmoil in Brazil continues.


The effort to restore order in Brazil

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Brazilian police detained about 1200 people yesterday, after thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress and other government buildings over the weekend. The attack had striking similarities to January 6th here in the U.S. Axios’ Dave Lawler is here to talk about the far-right rioters in Brazil. Hi Dave.


NIALA: So Dave, it's been two days since the attack and authorities have detained people and cleared roadblocks. What do we know so far?

DAVE: So basically, they're trying to restore order. There had been this kind of rumbling of protests after Lula defeated Bolsonaro in the elections in October. A lot of Bolsonaro supporters did not accept that result. In fact, Bolsonaro himself did not accept that result. Although the transfer of power did happen on January 1st, Lula is president now.

That's one big difference between January 6th and the U.S. and January 8th in Brazil because it actually happened after the transfer of power. But what we know basically is that 40 some bus loads of people arrived in the Capital Brasilia on Sunday. They joined up with protestors that were already in the Capitol, and they seemed to have very little trouble marching on these government buildings eventually breaking into them. President Lula has declared federal control over the city at this point and there has been quite a significant response, forceful response, clearing out these protest camps, breaking up roadblocks as you mentioned.

NIALA: Dave, what do we need to know about these protest camps?

DAVE: Yeah, so basically there have been pro Bolsonaro protestors camping outside of military barracks, not just in the capital, actually around the country. This started before the handover of power, they wanted the military to rise up and prevent the handover of power. And since then, there's been an effort, to sort of sow enough chaos that the military will have a justification to step in and say, “okay, you know, we need to take charge either restore Bolsonaro to power or get rid of Lula.” We should say that is very unlikely to happen.

NIALA: As you are saying all of this, Dave, there are obvious parallels between Brazil and the U.S. and our January 6th. Are there other links that we need to know about between the two?

DAVE: Sure. And it's funny, it does feel like Bolsonaro has had an extra two years to sort of think about this. I was talking to a journalist in Brazil who said, he may have learned from Trump's comeuppance to a certain degree in that he was not, visibly egging on his supporters to do this sort of thing. He kept his distance. He's in Florida. But yes, there are links. And I do, I sometimes think these comparisons between Trump and name another politician can be lazy and a little bit, you know,they're sort of trivializing things in the Brazilian context, Bolsonaro has embraced the comparison to Trump. He is quite a Trumpian character, and this was an event that was indeed quite similar to what we saw egged on by Donald Trump, in Washington a couple years ago.

NIALA: Dave, it was interesting for me to read yesterday that there hasn't been such a significant attack on Brazilian democracy since I believe the 1960s. What does all of this say about the state of democracy across the world?

DAVE: So, in the Brazilian context, there's two sides to this, right? In the one sense Brazil's institutions held right, they did have a transfer of power in Brazil. The Supreme Court, which is quite a polarizing institution in Brazil and has come under a lot of scrutiny is taking action in this case, it is investigating what has gone on from the pro Bolsonaro movement. And Congress for now has come together, more or less congressional leaders have come out and denounced this. So for now, the institutions have held in Brazil, although obviously the buildings themselves did not hold right. But the people behind them have held together.

I think it also shows how fragile this can all be, right? Brazil is a country, you know, it has had its political turmoil, certainly since the restoration of democracy in the 1980s. But as you mentioned, this is the first event on this scale that we've seen in decades in Brazil. It shows obviously that the capability to mobilize quite radical supporters into an action like this, is not isolated to one country; it can happen in multiple democracies. Certainly there will be leaders around the world, and populations around the world that will look at this and think perhaps it could happen in their country too.

NIALA: Axios’ World Editor Dave Lawler. Thanks Dave.

DAVE: Thanks, Niala.

NIALA: That’s it for us today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or you can text me at (202) 918-4893.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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