EpiPen shortage in US a threat for those who suffer from bee allergies

By Jennifer Fabiano, AccuWeather staff writer
June 06, 2018, 9:49:38 AM EDT

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported an EpiPen auto-injector shortage due to manufacturing delays at Pfizer's Meridian Medical Technologies, the company that produces the device.

Bloomberg reported that more than 400 patients had trouble filling a prescription for the EpiPen from May 2 to May 8. The FDA added the EpiPen to its list of medications in shortage the next day, May 9, and it has remained on that list since.

The shortage comes just as insects like bees, wasps and hornets begin to emerge in the northern United States. With outdoor summertime activities starting up all over the country, these insects can pose as a major threat to those who suffer allergic reactions from insect stings.

In a statement, Pfizer announced that the company is "working tirelessly to increase production as rapidly as possible."


A pharmacist holds a package of EpiPens epinephrine auto-injector, a Mylan product, in Sacramento, California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

If a patient realizes that their EpiPen has expired, they can switch to a different device during the shortage but should consult with their doctor first, according to Martha Hartz, the chair of Pediatric Allergies at Mayo Clinic.

There are various epinephrine auto-injectors. Epinephrine is another term for adrenaline, which is the first line emergency treatment for severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, according to Mayo Clinic. While EpiPen is the most commonly prescribed auto-injector, Auvi-Q and Adrenaclick are other common devices, according to Hartz.

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As the EpiPen shortage continued, many patients began ordering the Adrenaclick product, which then experienced delays due to increased demand. According to Hartz, patients should have no trouble ordering Auvi-Q. It is important for a patient to learn how to properly use a device if they decide or need to switch.

“Patients need education from their allergist or prescribing provider about the technique for using it and appropriate storage for the device,” Hartz said.

In addition to getting educated about devices, Hartz recommends that patients practice general avoidance measures in order to prevent a bee sting and allergic reaction.

Bee sting infographic prevention

Hartz often reminds patients that devices are not completely useless the instant that the labeled expiration date hits. Adrenaline-administering devices will slowly lose potency. Patients are still encouraged to order a new device as the current device's expiration date approaches.

Hartz also emphasized that allergy devices shouldn’t be left in hot cars during the summer.

“Room temperature is best for the stability of the epinephrine,” Hartz said.

In addition, Hartz recommends carrying two devices in the cases of improper administration or if the adrenaline wears off by the time that you can actually get to the emergency department for treatment.

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