Three months after it was announced, and after a shortage has largely abated, Alberta is still waiting for much of $80-million worth of children’s pain medication.

Following a scarcity of children’s medication throughout Canada last year, the United Conservative Party government announced it would import five billion bottles of acetaminophen and ibuprofen from Turkey-based Atabay Pharmaceuticals and Fine Chemicals in December.

The hefty price tag was not revealed until Health Minister Jason Copping told a budget estimate hearing last week that Alberta Health Services will spend $64.2 million in 2023-24 in a one-time expense following another $15.8 million in 2022-23.

The total cost is $80 million, he said, which includes $70 million for the medication and $10 million for shipping, waste disposal, and other administrative costs.

It’s been a “long process” to get the medication, Copping told reporters in the legislature Thursday.

“It is important to us, and still remains important to us, that this important medicine get in the hands of Alberta’s parents so they can treat their children,” he said.

In mid January, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced that 250,000 bottles of children’s medication would arrive in the province shortly for use by Alberta Health Services. She said the province hoped bottles would be on the shelves earlier, but the process was delayed by Health Canada as it ensured five million units of children’s pain and fever medication was consistent with national standards. 

The premier also said the remaining 4.75 million bottles will be for retail use at a later date, adding that those shipments were subject to additional delays because the bottles require a childproof cap. 

“We are working on making sure that that approval process is taking place,” she said.

Opposition New Democrat MLA Rakhi Pancholi told reporters the government’s efforts fell short and came at great cost to taxpayers.

“I was a little surprised by how large the number was,” she said Thursday. “The reality is, we didn’t get the product. We didn’t get it when we needed it. And now we’re still paying top dollar.”

She also said the province may have ordered too much medication, with five million bottles for the province’s approximately 770,000 children under the age of 14.

Copping said the $80 million figure doesn’t account for any revenue amounting from the sale of the drugs.

“We have the supply that we need for Albertans now with this contract, but if we don’t need the entire contract then we’ll be able to share with others and then get revenue from that.”

He also said he’s expecting two other additional shipments to come “over the next little while.”


  • Rachel Emmanuel

    Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.