The EpiPen shortage

If you are one of the estimated 250,000 people in the UK who are prescribed emergency adrenaline for life-threatening allergies, you may be feeling nervous right now. EpiPens, which are autoinjectors carried by people at risk of anaphylaxis, are in short supply. Some people who need them say they can’t get hold of them.

‘EpiPens are absolutely vital for prople who suffer from a serious allergy and have been prescribed adrenaline. Pharmacists up and down the country have reported shortages and delays in locating Epipens. The current situation is not a crisis but it is serious and we are doing everything we can to help make sure people get their prescriptions filled,’ says Lynne Regent, CEO of the charity, Anaphylaxis Campaign. The problem, which now affect EpiPen Jrs as well as EpiPens for adults is down to manufacturing issues in the US, which is having a knock-on effect on supplies to other countries including the UK, Canada and Australia.

Emma Hammett, an experienced nurse and first aid expert who founded First Aid for Life, says that people can take steps to try and avoid running out. ‘Keep an eye on the expiry date and make sure you get a prescription at least two months before that.’ Adrenaline does break down over time and become less effective so the expiry date is important, although you can keep using autoinjectors until the end of the expiration month. Manufacturers Pfizer have also recently announced extended expiration dates for their Epipen 0.3mg auti-injectors and authorised generic version to try and ease up demand for replacements. However, the extension does not apply to EpiPen Jr versions which contain 0.15mg of the active ingredients.

You can ask to get a email or text message alert to warn you when your auti-injector is due to expire. ‘Check if the manufacturer has a free alert service, which warns you to renew your prescription in the weeks prior to the expiry date,’ says Hammett. The charity Anaphylaxis Campaign says anyone anxious about their prescription should visit their GP and talk about it directly with them and not to dispose of any expired devices before receiving a new one.

Hammett also points out that there are two other brands of autoinjectors on the market – Jext and Emerade which all contain the same dose of adrenaline for adults. ‘It’s not ideal if you usually get EpiPen because people would prefer to have devices they are familiar with, but they do the same thing and have the same dose. You can ask the pharmacist to go through the instructions with you and show you how to use it and ensure that anyone else who might use the device on you knows how to use it too.’

Thea Jourdan
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