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Here's What You Need to Know About the EpiPen Shortage

Photograph by Twenty20

When you have kids with severe allergies, sending them to school (or anywhere for that matter) can be a terrifying reality—unless, of course, they are carrying an epinephrine autoinjector (EAI), otherwise known as an EpiPen.

The problem, however, is that these lifesaving devices are almost nowhere to be found. Those that do exist, and the ones many parents reach for, are absurdly overpriced, thanks to a 400 percent price increase by a greedy distributor.

According to CBS MoneyWatch, Wegmans supermarket was the first to report the shortage back in April, but a year prior, in March 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration alerted consumers to a voluntary recall of Mylan’s EpiPen and EpiPen Jr., manufactured by Meridian Medical Technologies and distributed by Mylan Specialty.

So, why is this shortage still going on—a full year later?

Based on a MarketWatch theory, the answer is simple: supply and demand. Since Mylan EpiPen and their generic counterpart (which costs 50 percent less) are the most sought-after epinephrine autoinjectors on the market, it would make sense that a distributor would want to capitalize on the industry—but at what cost?

Kids with severe allergies often need more than one EpiPen, stored in multiple locations, at all times. But how are parents supposed to accomplish this when they’re stuck paying anywhere from $300 to $600 for preventative medicine (with an 18-month expiration date) that they’ll probably never use? And where are they supposed to find them?

In a press release on August 9, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) quoted a response from the manufacturer, claiming they are “expedit[ing] shipments as rapidly as possible.” In the same sentence, they added that they “can’t guarantee availability at all pharmacies.”

Kids with severe allergies often need more than one EpiPen, stored in multiple locations, at all times.

To help speed things up, the organization tweeted a message, demanding the FDA "expedite importation of EAIs approved in Europe."

Still, there is no way of knowing when the shortage will end. But, according to a warning on FARE’s website, there are a few things you can do in the interim.

Because supplies vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, they recommend calling another store—CVS, Walgreens, etc.—within the same chain. If that doesn't work, FARE suggests you swing by local grocery stores or visit independent pharmacies. A list of independently owned pharmacies that may (or may not) have a hidden stash can be found on healthmart.com.

Another thing you can do is ask your doctor to prescribe another brand. To view those options, check availability or receive epinephrine training, visit foodallergy.org.

As a last resort, in the absence of a current epinephrine auto-injector, FARE recommends using an expired dose (if available), then calling 911 for follow-up medical treatment. However, this may be tricky for school-age children, as some schools do not accept expired EpiPens.

In cases where parents have tried everything and STILL couldn’t get their hands on an EpiPen, the FDA suggests letting your fingers do the walking—elsewhere.

"There are intermittent supply constraints due to manufacturing delays from the manufacturing partner, Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company," they stated on their website.

"Mylan is receiving continual supply from MMT and expediting shipment to wholesalers upon receipt. Supply levels may vary across wholesalers and pharmacies. Patients who are experiencing difficulty accessing product should contact Mylan Customer Relations at 800-796-9526 for assistance in locating alternative pharmacies."

Thanks a lot, FDA. I’m sure this will be super helpful when a child goes into anaphylactic shock because their parents are sitting on hold, waiting for a distributor to tell them where to locate a fricking EpiPen.

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