The Grapevine

EpiPen Shortage Frustrates Doctors And Patients

It has been a year since manufacturers reported the EpiPen shortage and the lack of supply is expected to continue in the coming months. Doctors and consumers have already voiced concerns amid the growing demand for the device that has been effective to stop life-threatening food allergies.

“We didn’t expect it to go this long,” Todd Mahr, a Wisconsin-based allergist and parent of a child with food allergies, told WebMD. “And that’s frustrating to us and our patients.”

EpiPen serves as an auto-injection tool for immediate delivery of doses of epinephrine to stop severe and potentially deadly allergic reactions. It has been widely accepted at clinics and even schools to treat children. 

However, Steve Danehy, director of media relations at Pfizer, said the shortage that started in May 2018 may continue over the coming months. Some experts claimed the EpiPens shortage was linked to Pfizer’s subsidiary, Meridian Medical Technologies, which manufactures the devices. 

Meridian reportedly made a long manufacturing shutdown for maintenance and upgrades during the winter, which contributed to the EpiPen shortage. The company also saw unplanned equipment downtime that delayed the production process. 

Danehy said the company is already working to address the shortage as quickly as possible. But he noted Pfizer has yet to finalize a timetable for the efforts. 

EpiPen Shortage and Impacts

Distributors of the tool expects to see a large demand in the summer as most parents plan to refill to prepare for a new school year. 

“This is a big deal,” Erin Malawer, a parent of a child with food allergies and an award-winning blogger focused on allergies, said. “People are frustrated, calling all over their cities, getting on waiting lists at pharmacies. Families are worried about using their auto-injectors for fear that they might not be able to replace them. That's a dangerous thought.”

In the U.S., 32 million people are estimated to have food allergies, including 5.6 million children. Between 2007 and 2016, the country saw a 377 percent increase in the cases of allergic reactions, according to Lisa Gable, CEO of Food Allergy Research & Education.