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EpiPen shortage impacts P.E.I.; Pfizer says additional inventory will be available soon

Pharmacist Rob MacLellan holds up an EpiPen at the Sherwood Drug Mart in Charlottetown. Pharmacists in P.E.I. are monitoring a shortage of EpiPen auto-injectors in the 0.3 milligram format.
Pharmacist Rob MacLellan holds up an EpiPen at the Sherwood Drug Mart in Charlottetown. Pharmacists in P.E.I. are monitoring a shortage of EpiPen auto-injectors in the 0.3 milligram format. - Mitch MacDonald

Pharmacists in P.E.I. are monitoring a shortage of EpiPens used by people who are at risk or have a history of life-threatening allergic reactions.

Pfizer Canada recently advised Health Canada that there is a shortage of EpiPen auto-injectors in the 0.3 milligram format. The shortage is reported to be due to a manufacturing disruption and is anticipated to be resolved by March 2.

According to Pfizer, the shortage does not impact EpiPen Jr. (0.15 milligrams), which remain available.

EpiPens are used to deliver an emergency treatment of adrenaline to patients to patients who are at risk or have a history of life-threatening allergic reactions. There are currently no alternative auto-injectors available on the market in Canada.

“The company does have a shortage, and we all will feel the impact,’’ said Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association.

“In our industry, we deal with this all the time. There’s always drug shortages for one reason or another and, typically, it does get resolved.’’

“Most people will never ever use their EpiPen. They just have it on hand in their purse or wherever and use it if needed.’’
-Erin MacKenzie

According to a news release on Health Canada’s website, Pfizer is working closely with distributors to resolve the shortage as soon as possible. It expects a period of no inventory of the 0.3 millgram format of between two and four weeks.

Pfizer says that additional limited inventory will be available at the beginning of February and that it will continue to manage the supply carefully. Pfizer is asking pharmacists to keep this supply interruption in mind when filling prescriptions.

“Certainly, when anything like an EpiPen becomes one of the drugs involved (in a shortage) because of the nature of what it’s used for people do get quite concerned. As of last week, there was certainly not a huge outcry to this office to see if anyone else had any in stock that they could share.’’

In general, it is recommended that people have more than one auto-injector with different expiry dates to avoid being in the situation of only having an expired auto-injector. However, Health Canada advises in a shortage situation, if someone is experiencing an anaphylactic reaction, to use an expired product and immediately call 911.

MacKenzie notes that school children who are required to have an EpiPen with them are supposed to have two as part of policy.

“Most people will never ever use their EpiPen. They just have it on hand in their purse or wherever and use it if needed.’’

MacKenzie added that Island pharmacies have been sharing their stock and her association would reach out to all pharmacies if someone was in dire need of an EpiPen.

“If they can’t track anything down (we’ll help) just to cover the patient off for that time. They may give me a ring and I’ll see if I can facilitate (by) sending a note out to all stores. That has been quite effective unless it’s been a long-term shortage.’’

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