EpiPen shortage: What you need to know

Patients of all ages can suffer from anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition when exposed to an allergenic substance. Allergies have a variety of causes, including biting insects, something eaten or ingested, medication, or something allergenic in the environment, such as latex or latex products.  Potential allergens are everywhere.

For those with severe allergies, reactions can range from trouble breathing due to swelling in the airway to full shock, when blood pressure drops suddenly and airways begin to close. Both of these situations are true emergencies and require immediate intervention.

Fortunately, a rapid-injection product is available for those that need it in the event of a reaction when they are not near an emergency room or hospital. Rapid-injection epinephrine, commercially referred to as EpiPen, can be life-saving if a serious reaction is occurring.  However, there is currently a potential EpiPen shortage due to manufacturing problems.  The FDA has reported that these potential shortages vary across the country.

There are several products on the market related to EpiPen that deliver the same medication, including AUVI-Q and Adrenaclick. Each medication has a similar way of being delivered—take off the cap and inject the medicine directly into the outer aspect of the thigh (even through clothes).  However, each medicine has a slightly different auto-injector, so patients and families need to know how to use which one they have available. Both of these products are sufficient substitutes if EpiPen is not available.

So what’s a family to do if someone in your family depends on EpiPen to deliver life-saving care?

  1. Make sure that your prescription is current. If not, obtain a current prescription.
  2. Make sure that the auto-injector is available when needed. It is recommended that children have an injector at school, in addition to home, in case of a reaction at school.
  3. Make sure that you know the type of injector that you have.
  4. Make sure that you know how to use the injector correctly , especially if you are switching to a new brand due to the EpiPen shortage.
  5. Call your physician’s office with any questions.
  6. It is always a good idea to have an emergency plan in case of an anaphylactic reaction.

Finally, Epipen has provided a toll-free number in case of questions or availability issues – 800-796-9526.


Robert Saul, MD, is a pediatrician with Greenville Health System.

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