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Billings parents struggling with national baby formula shortage

Posted at 6:58 PM, Apr 21, 2022

BILLINGS — A baby-formula shortage is causing problems for parents in Billings, who are struggling to find enough to feed their infants.

"I think feeding your baby can be a stressful experience, and this doesn’t help,” said Billings mom Dana Andersson this week.

Andersson was buying formula for her 8-month-year old daughter, Prudence, through an Amazon subscription. The product, however, suddenly went out of stock.

“I spent a little bit of time driving around town looking for our formula and yeah, it’s not on the shelves,” Andersson said.

Even when it is on store shelves, purchases are limited.

“What we’re hearing from the community is if you walk into the corporations, you’re being limited to one or two cans at a time,” said Kyle Austin, the owner of Pharm 406 in Billings, which special orders baby formula to sell on its shelves.

He says one of his suppliers is completely out. The shortage extends far beyond Billings.

“The baby formula shortage started probably a couple years ago,” said Dr. Jeff Golini, owner of All American Pharmaceutical in the Heights.

He counted multiple reasons for the shortage:

“There’s only a few large drug companies, which I call them, that manufacture, and they’re claiming they don’t have enough product to sell,” Golini said.

One of those companies- Abbott- recently had its formula recalled after an infant died.

Abbott issued this statement to Q2 shortly after this story was originally published:

We know that the recall of Abbott’s powder infant formula has further exacerbated an industry-wide infant formula supply shortage, and we deeply regret the anxiety and impact this is creating for parents, caregivers and healthcare providers. We are doing everything we can to address it. Across the U.S., we’re prioritizing production of infant formula products to help replenish the supply in the market and are also air shipping in product from our FDA-registered facility in Cootehill, Ireland, on a daily basis. All of this powder product is being restocked on retail shelves on a regular basis.

Actions we’re taking to address supply include:

  • Increasing production of Similac formulas at our other FDA-registered facilities
  • Bringing Similac Advance into the U.S. from an FDA-registered manufacturing site in Europe, including daily shipments by air of product
  • Prioritizing some production of other Abbott liquid products to Similac and Alimentum to make more ready-to-feed liquid formula available
  • Working with USDA and state agencies to provide authorization for parents who get formula from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) with other Similac products at no cost, including for other manufacturers' products
  • Contacting other manufacturers to provide information regarding supply constraints for specialty formulas so they can address the demand
  • Engaging with healthcare providers to identify potential alternative formulas, whenever we can
  • Investing in additional manufacturing of specialty products for infants who can't tolerate standard formula products

We know that millions of parents and caregivers around the world count on our formulas to feed their babies and children and we are doing everything possible to address this situation.

There are also supply chain issues and a worker shortage.

“As demand for USA products grow overseas, companies in the USA want to sell it all over there and then they don’t have enough for our domestic market, and what they have left, supply and demand, price goes up,” Golini said.

Back in the early 2000s, All American Pharmaceutical actually wanted to manufacture its own baby formula.

However, the Montana company hit a roadblock.

“To sell it we had to do a very expensive, probably a $2 million study,” Golini said.

That FDA study required 1,000 moms with newborns to be studied, something that wasn’t feasible for the company.

Now, mothers like Andersson are left in the lurch.

“I don’t know, I guess the next step is to call the pediatrician and see what they think,” Andersson said.

Austin at Pharm 406 says they can special order formula from a medical supplier if parents are out of luck in their search.