Quick-acting EpiPen auto-injectors can save lives during severe allergic reactions.
“It has the active medication called epinephrine so as soon as we inject that epinephrine in the body, it will counteract these reactions,” Regina pharmacist Parth Patel said.
However, on Thursday Health Canada announced a shortage of EpiPen auto-injectors across the country.
While the EpiPen Jr. remains available, there is a limited supply of the 0.3 mg format, designed for anyone weighing more than 66 pounds.
The manufacturer, Pfizer Canada, blames the shortage on a manufacturing disruption.
In a statement the company wrote:
EpiPen is a medically necessary product with currently no alternatives on the market in Canada. At this time, there is limited supply of auto-injectors at wholesalers, distributors and at pharmacies. While we are working closely with our distributors to avoid long-term supply shortage at the store level, we expect a period of between two and four weeks of no inventory.
Pfizer has advised and is working with Health Canada on this situation and we are exploring remediation plans to address this situation.
We understand and regret the challenges this shortage poses to patients. Ensuring continuity of the supply of our medicines is paramount, and this temporary supply interruption does not indicate an impact on the quality, safety or efficacy of EpiPen auto-injectors currently available on the Canadian market. Pfizer fully realizes the importance of this medicine to our customers and patients, and has taken action to minimize the duration of the supply interruption, including efforts to expedite delivery of available supply.
In Regina, some pharmacies say they’re down to just one EpiPen, while others are worried they will soon be in short supply as well.
“Right now there might be some EpiPens on the shelves of pharmacies, but there might be a true shortage at pharmacies as we speak, so of course we’re concerned about this,” Director of Professional Practice at the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan Myla Wollbaum said.
Parth Patel says he’s down to two 0.3 mg doses.
“It’s concerning for those who don’t have their EpiPen with them or who have them and either there expired or they forgot to get a replacement,” he explained.
Wollbaum says there is another option if you can’t access an EpiPen.
“If there comes a point where a patient cannot access an EpiPen they can talk to their pharmacist or their doctor and their doctor can provide them with a prescription for epinephrine using the manual process,” Wollbaum explained. “The pharmacist would educate you on exactly how to do that because as the EpiPen is an auto-injector, this would be a manual process.”
Health Canada advises anyone having a severe allergic reaction to use an expired EpiPen if that’s all they have and immediately call 911.
The shortage is expected to be resolved by March 2, with limited inventory available at the beginning of February.