Clarification on use of imported pain medication in hospitals

January 10, 2024

EDMONTON - Alberta Health Services (AHS) would like to provide some clarification around the use of acetaminophen imported from Turkey last winter.

The medication was approved for import by Health Canada and no patients - including infants requiring neo-natal intensive care - were injured or fell ill as a result of its use.

The decision to stop using the imported pain medication in our NICUs was made after frontline staff found that the imported product had a higher risk of clogging feeding tubes, due to a higher viscosity.

In healthcare, the terminology “adverse reaction” does not mean patients were injured. In this case, adverse reactions included patients not tolerating the taste of the imported medication, or the volume.

Technically, the need for what might otherwise be an unnecessary procedure - replacing a feeding tube - qualifies as an adverse event. Instances where product packaging and labeling can be misapprehended can also qualify as an adverse event.

The Atabay product was used in AHS sites for approximately two months before staff reverted back to the usual medication.

In early 2023, Canada was experiencing supply challenges of children's analgesics (acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Domestic manufacturers were unable to keep up with demand. Supply through distributors was limited by imposed purchasing limits.

It was in that context that prudent and proactive decisions were made with the objective of avoiding a complete shortfall in essential medications that would adversely impact patient care.

Atabay has Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification in the USA, Japan, Australia, and the European Union. Atabay is the sole manufacturer of acetaminophen in the European Union, the Middle East and North Africa.

The additional supply of children's pain medication provided assurance, long-term, for our stock of acetaminophen in AHS facilities at a time of a global shortage and high demand.