EpiPen shortage expected this month
Canada is facing a ‘life threatening’ EpiPen shortage with Health Canada saying the medication may become unavailable to consumers in August.
The shortage is blamed on a manufacturing issue with Pfizer Canada which affects the adult dosage 0.3 mg autoinjectors, which provide a shot of epinephrine to individuals with severe allergies and are at risk of life threatening allergic reactions such as bee stings and peanuts.
Freson Bros pharmacist Pat Doyle says it is an issue with the parts of the device, not the availability of the medication itself.
“Epinephrine is a common drug, it’s used all the time in hospitals. It’s still available but not to the layperson,” he says.
Health Canada had issued a warning of the shortage in January this year, but on July 30 Pfizer had advised that “while some pharmacies may currently have some inventory on-hand, it will likely be depleted in the coming days or weeks.”
The shortage affects both the adult dosage and to a lesser degree the youth dosage, EpiPen Jr, continues to be supplied, though inventory for it is also dwindling.
There are currently no other epinephrine pen manufacturers in Canada, causing Canadians to be at the mercy of one company. There are four other companies who produce equivalent products, all of which have been approved by Health Canada, though the manufacturers have not entered the Canadian market.
Health Canada encourages individuals not to stockpile or hoard the medication as it may be taking away the medication from someone else who may need it.
The shortage has been described as ‘temporary’ by Health Canada, but the implications of the medication potentially becoming unavailable is concerning for local pharmacists.
“If a person doesn’t have one and they get stung by a bee, they can die,” says Riverside Value Drug Mart pharmacist Ray Ainscough. “It’s life threatening.”
While people are concerned about EpiPen availability, Doyle says it is not the only drug causing concern.
“It is scary, but it’s not the only drug that is suffering shortages. We’re struggling with shortages and manufacture recalls for the last while,” he says.
Both Ainscough and Doyle recommend people unable to purchase an EpiPen to keep an expired one on them if possible. People can also keep an over-the-counter antihistamine on their person in case of a reaction.
“It buys you time to get to the emergency room,” Ainscough says.
Doyle says “in our day and age, there is still time to call 911 and get to the hospital.”
Health Canada is encouraging Canadians to visit drugshortagescanada.ca or contact Pfizer Canada directly for up-to-date information about the shortage and estimated re-supply dates. Patients with questions or concerns about the shortage may also wish to speak to their health care professional.
If a person doesn’t have one and they get stung by a bee, they can die.” Ray Ainscough Pharmacist
An EpiPen shortage may hit Canadians in August which is cause for concern for people suffering from severe allergies.