Pharmacies still facing EpiPen shortage over a year later

Updated: Jul. 12, 2019 at 12:35 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - EpiPens have been in short supply for over a year now after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first declared a shortage back in May 2018, citing to manufacturing issues.

“The auto injector is somewhat complex to make and we have some manufacturers who are having supply issues and manufacturing issues and they are working on it,” said Sam Abraham, owner of Carolina Forest Pharmacy.

Summer time means more exposure to life-threatening allergies, leaving families who depend on EpiPens on edge. With no specific timeline released by the manufacturer, pharmacists say don’t expect relief anytime soon. The drug manufacturer Mylan is made by a division of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

"Despite our significant efforts, we do not anticipate further supply shortages over the coming months,” said Pfizer spokeswoman Kim Bencker.

Many are holding onto their expired EpiPens for use in emergencies. Pharmacists like Abraham are racing to keep EpiPens on their shelves, ordering fresh supply whenever they can. Abraham says he’s been dealing with the shortage and didn’t expect it to last this long.

“We have been trying to grab every vial every box we can get. Right now, we have the EpiPen, the standard dose, which is a .3 EpiPen. We have them in stock. The junior one is a little hard to get," said Abraham.

Abraham says if you don’t have access to an EpiPen and start to feel initial allergic reaction symptoms like rash, swelling or itching, take over-the-counter allergy medications, like Benadryl. Watch your symptoms closely because severe allergic reactions can result in anaphylaxis, which can lead to difficulty breathing, feeling light-headed or severe drop in blood pressure. That’s when you need an EpiPen and seek medical help.

If you do have an EpiPen and it’s expired, pharmacists say don’t get rid of it just yet.

“The FDA has put out a letter on expiration dates where it stated that we can extend all the adult EpiPens by four months. So the general recommendation at this point, try to be proactive and get one in date. If you can’t, hold onto the one you have until you’re able to replace it, just in case,” said Abraham.

Some pharmacists expect the shortage to get worse before it gets better. As we inch closer to the start of the new school year, EpiPens can be especially difficult to track down when sales tend to peak. That’s why Abraham is encouraging families to start thinking ahead so everyone isn’t trying to stock up on EpiPens at the same time.

Abraham says there are alternatives you can keep on hand in the meantime, such as over-the-counter allergy medicine, vials of epinephrine or other brands of auto-injectors that contain epinephrine. He says if you do make the switch, make sure you and your loved ones know how to properly administer the drug.

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