Family health

There's an EpiPen shortage in Canada

There's currently a shortage of EpiPens, the life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors needed by people who suffer from severe allergies.

There's an EpiPen shortage in Canada

Photo: iStockphoto

If you have a child who suffers from a serious allergy that can result in anaphylaxis, you should have an EpiPen on hand for them at all times. But currently, there's a shortage of them in Canada.

EpiPens are auto-injectors that can deliver a life-saving dose of epinephrine during a severe allergic reaction. Pfizer Canada, the pharmaceutical company that makes them, says they are currently experiencing a shortage of the 0.3 mg format EpiPens due to an interruption in supply. The 0.3 mg EpiPens are intended for children and adults who weigh 66 pounds (30 kilograms) or more.

The supply of EpiPen Jr., which is for kids between 33 and 66 pounds (15 and 30 kilograms), is not affected.

In a statement, Pfizer Canada writes, "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."

“A lot of parents rely very heavily on this product, so this is going to be cause for a lot of concern,” says Philip Emberley, the director of practice advancement and research for the Canadian Pharmacists Association, and a practising pharmacist in the Ottawa area. Many kids require multiple EpiPens so that they have them available at home, at school and for after-school programs.

Pfizer Canada says a limited number of additional EpiPens are expected to hit stores in February, and they will allocate them to manage the supply. The company also says it is working with Health Canada and "exploring remediation plans to address this situation."

Emberley says if parents have an EpiPen that’s expiring or that they recently used, they should contact their pharmacy to see if they have some in stock and replace it as soon as possible because if they wait, it might not be available at all. "It’s impossible to predict where the supply is that’s out there—which pharmacies have them, which pharmacies don’t have them."

Pfizer says, "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.”


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