Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Hypoallergenic infant formula shortage – Information for pharmacy professionals

Canada is currently experiencing a shortage of specialized infant formulas due to the temporary closure of Abbott Laboratories’ manufacturing facility in Michigan. This has particularly affected specialized infant formulas, which are often used as the primary source of nutrition for infants with metabolic disorders, severe gastrointestinal diseases and allergic intolerance.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) has been involved in discussions with Health Canada and others to stay updated as the situation evolves and ensure that pharmacy is represented in the conversations. Following, you will find important information, links and resources to help pharmacy professionals in managing and communicating with patients about this shortage.

Managing supply

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 specialized formulas. There is currently no shortage of regular infant formula in Canada.

CPhA is encouraging pharmacists to consider measures to manage supply. In some jurisdictions, provincial guidance has already been communicated, including limitations on purchases and locating product behind the pharmacy counter.

  • Keeping specialty formula behind the counter: To help manage supply, it’s recommended that pharmacies hold amino acid-based formulas and extensively hydrolyzed infant formulas behind the counter to ensure supply for those infants who need it most.
  • Reserving specialty formula: Pharmacists should limit the use of specialty infant formulas where possible and avoid, unless necessary, transferring children to more specialized products.
  • Ordering upon request: Health Canada is advising that pharmacists order hypoallergenic formula only when requested by a parent or caregiver. To ensure that supply is available for infants who need it most, pharmacies should avoid ordering and keeping inventory on hand that has not been requested until supply has stabilized.
  • NEW - Awareness: Health Canada has developed a list of available products during the hypoallergenic infant formula shortage that can be printed and used as signage on pharmacy shelves to help inform your patients of what may be available. (PDF | Word)

Please do not draw from hospital stocks, as this supply must be protected for babies hospitalized because they found no other options. 

Note: Pharmacists should use their professional judgement and consult any provincial guidance and recommendations that have been communicated about managing supply in your local jurisdictions.  

Distribution and product information

Resources to support pharmacists

Decision Tree Icon

UPDATED - Clinical decision tree – Use of Specialized Infant Formula During a Shortage
A national clinical decision was developed to support health care providers across the country guide treatment decisions, and support families and caregivers to make appropriate formula choices while rationing the use of specialized infant formulas. Health Canada facilitated bringing together experts from a broad community of healthcare stakeholders for its development, including: Canadian Pediatric Society, Canadian Pharmacists Association, Food Allergy Canada, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dietitians of Canada, Hospital for Sick Children and McMaster Children’s Hospital. 

Speech Bubble Icon

Communicating with patients – Information for families factsheet
The situation is distressing for some families who will turn to pharmacists for help. Pharmacists should be prepared to answer questions. Health Canada has published a complete factsheet that health-care professionals can use to facilitate their discussions with concerned parents and caregivers. The fact sheet includes a description of infant formulas affected by the shortage, tips about what to do and what not to do during the shortage and useful information on possible alternative approaches and products. A link to a downloadable colour PDF can also be found on the webpage. 

Resources Icon

Typical Formula Consumption Amounts for Healthy Term Infants
A tool for health professionals on estimated typical consumptions of extensively hydrolyzed and amino acid-based formulas by healthy term infants.

Imported products

Health Canada is monitoring the supply situation and is working with manufacturers to import product from countries with similar manufacturing practices and standards and recently updated its interim policy on importation, which includes a recent update to its current list of products highlighting imported formulas that will soon be available to Canadians.

Labelling considerations

To ensure imported products meet labelling requirements and important health/product information is available in both official languages, Health Canada has made printable labels/information available for the imported products.

Coverage information for pharmacists 

This page will be updated as new information becomes available.
Last updated: September 13, 2022