Alberta Health Services is regularly updating its Infant formula shortage webpage that includes resources from Health Canada, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, and the Canadian Paediatric Society. There is also information about which formulas have been temporarily approved by Health Canada to support infant feeding during the shortage, a formula decision tree, and contact information for non-urgent questions related to the formula shortage.
In the meantime, the following message from Health Canada provides information to help pharmacy team members answer questions from families about the shortage of hypoallergenic infant formula.
Types of infant formula
Regular infant formulas contain intact proteins or partially hydrolyzed proteins for babies with intolerances and gastrointestinal discomfort. There is currently no shortage of regular infant formula in Canada. These types of formula are still found on shelves in retail stores and pharmacies.
Hypoallergenic infant formulas contain extensively hydrolyzed proteins (for mild allergies) or are amino acid based (for severe or multiple allergies). There is a shortage of these formulas. To help manage the limited supply, it is recommended that hypoallergenic formulas be only available to families through ordering at the pharmacy counter and should not be found on shelves.
About the shortage
The shortage of specialized infant formula results from the temporary closure of an important manufacturing facility operated by Abbott Laboratories in Michigan. We understand that activities resumed on July 1 and that production will ramp up slowly, initially focusing on amino acid-based formula.
Health Canada will continue to work with manufacturers to make sure that supply is maintained until the situation stabilizes. This could take several months.
Role of pharmacists during the shortage
The shortage of specialized infant formula has become highly distressing for certain families, and they are turning to pharmacists to find supply. Pharmacists should be prepared to answer questions and know how to access hypoallergenic formula so that parents are not turned away.
Health Canada recommends that pharmacies should not maintain inventory of hypoallergenic formula and that these products should only be ordered upon request. Please consider including signage on the shelves to redirect families to the pharmacy counter for ordering hypoallergenic formula.
Translated label information to distribute to families upon purchase is available for printing in Appendix A of Health Canada’s Interim Policy.
Please do not draw from hospital stocks, as the latter need to be protected for babies that were hospitalized because they found no other options.