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Shoppers Drug Mart parent company says cough and cold sales hit all-time high

BRAMPTON, Ont. — Canada's biggest drugstore chain says sales of cough and cold products hit an all-time high this fall.

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. chairman and president Galen G. Weston says the combination of COVID-19, RSV and the flu led to a record number of cough and cold medication sales at the company's pharmacies, which include Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix.

He says the manufacturers of multinational and generic brands have had trouble keeping up with the spike in demand.

Weston says the "unusual pressure" on the industry has led to shortages, leaving retailers with limited stock for some medications.

He says manufacturers are working hard to get more product available, but it's difficult to say when the shortages will end.

Weston says the company also recorded sustained growth in prescription medication sales this fall.

His comments to analysts on Wednesday came as Loblaw said its overall drugstore same-store sales grew by 7.7 per cent in its latest quarter.

The company's pharmacy front store same-store sales, which include over-the-counter medication sales but not prescription drugs, increased by 10.7 per cent in the quarter ended Oct. 8

Metro Inc., which runs pharmacies including Jean Coutu and Brunet, reported a 7.4 per cent increase in pharmacy same-store sales in its latest quarter.

Pharmacy front-store sales rose 9.9 per cent in its fourth quarter ended Sept. 24, primarily driven by over-the-counter products and cosmetics, the company said Wednesday.

The federal government has said help is on the way to help deal with the shortages and that Health Canada has arranged to import doses of children's painkillers and fever medication from the United States and Australia.

"The one ask that we have of parents is buy only what you need, so that we make sure that we have enough medicine for children who are sick, but we understand how stressful and scary this is for families," said Karina Gould, the federal minister of families, children and social development.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2022.

— With files from Cindy Tran in Ottawa

Companies in this story: (TSX:L), (TSX:MRU).

The Canadian Press