EpiPen shortage causing angst

March 07, 2018

LOCAL pharmacies are receiving mixed messages – or no message at all – on when elusive EpiPen supplies will be replenished in Echuca-Moama.

But there are hopes it could be in the next few days.

Echuca’s Coburn and Reid Pharmacy has been told by national supplier Mylan Australia that both EpiPen and EpiPen Jr would be back on shelves in the ‘‘next couple of days’’.

And while Moama Pharmacy has also heard EpiPen Jr will be released in the coming days, it has been told regular EpiPens are four to six weeks away.

Other local pharmacies including Amcal Echuca, Chemist Warehouse Echuca, Rich River Pharmacy and Priceline Pharmacy still have no firm dates.

‘‘We were told an ETA last week, but this week we’ve been told there’s no ETA anymore,’’ Rich River owner Kara Spring said.

The ongoing shortage of the lifesaving medication, which is used by people with severe food allergies, has been blamed ambiguously on ‘manufacturing issues’.

But it has left many local parents and others with allergies in a state of anxiety.

Such as Moama’s Leanne Whitely, who came home from hospital after a severe anaphylactic reaction, only to discover she couldn’t buy an EpiPen from her local pharmacy.

‘‘I had an allergic reaction after receiving an antibiotic I didn’t even know I was allergic to,’’ she said.

‘‘My blood pressure rose to over 190, my throat closed up and my mouth began to swell. I was given two shots of adrenaline and two of cortizone and a Phenergan straight into the vein and it took three days to go down.

‘‘It was a traumatic experience, but it was even more distressing to go to the pharmacy with a script for an EpiPen only to be told they didn’t have anything.’’

After contacting a number of pharmacies, Leanne finally sourced an EpiPen in Melbourne.

‘‘But I still only have the one EpiPen, I’m supposed to have two,’’ she said.

‘‘I really hope this shortage comes to an end soon. And not just for me. It’s more common than you think for people to use an EpiPen. And this can’t be good for anyone who relies on it to save their life.’’

In emergency situations, some local pharmacies have been forced to send people straight to hospital for adrenaline shots, which can temporarily halt a reaction, but don’t stop a relapse like the EpiPen.

While other pharmacies have managed to source a handful of the coveted medications from wholesalers for severe cases.

‘‘We had a person with a shellfish allergy who didn’t even know he had it,’’ Priceline pharmacist Shonae Zeman said.

‘‘The hospital dealt with it acutely, but when he went home, he had no backup at all.

‘‘Thankfully we were able to give him an EpiPen from our urgent supply.’’

After months of waiting for supplies to resume, some pharmacies have also advised users to keep expired EpiPens in case of emergency.

‘‘If it’s expired, make sure it’s not cloudy. If it’s cloudy, it won’t be effective,’’ Ms Zeman said.

While some local pharmacies have said clients will be able to walk in and buy EpiPens straight off the shelf once supply resumes, Moama Pharmacy’s Clint Flanigan is encouraging people to order ahead.

‘‘The dates given by wholesalers are just an estimate at best. Deliveries can be held up in transit, plus the backlog in orders means stock gets utilised quickly because there’s not enough for continued supplies,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve advised patients to order ahead of time so they’ll be sure to get what they need.

‘‘But chat to your local pharmacy and see what their situation is.’’

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