Aussie Doctor Slams Child EpiPen Shortage As 'Not Good Enough'
The Australian doctors association has blasted a shortage of lifesaving EpiPens for children, saying they weren't notified by the manufacturers that there was a problem.
Pharmacies have been told to only allow parents to buy one EpiPen Jr. at a time, as supplies of the model dwindle due to international shortages from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
The shortage could continue until January 2020.
The EpiPen Jr. is a child's version of the EpiPen, an adrenaline shot used to treat conditions such as anaphylaxis, cardiac arrest, and superficial bleeding.
10 daily understands only the EpiPen Jr. model is affected, not models for adults.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration said the patient impact could be "critical", but Australian allergy experts have urged people to remain calm and not panic.
On Thursday, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) slammed Pfizer, accusing the pharma-giant of keeping them "in the dark".
"This simply isn’t good enough," RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon told 10 daily.
"The new laws requiring medicine companies to report shortages of important medicines came into effect on 1 January this year. So why is this latest shortage happening? Serious questions must be asked."
A Pfizer spokesperson said the supply issues were "temporary" and hoped it would be resolved soon.
"Our focus has been and continues to be on providing a consistent supply of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. for patients. We are committed to resolving this supply issue so patients have consistent access to this life saving medicine," the spokesperson said.
The RACGP claimed it was not informed of the issue, saying "GPs are kept in the dark and the first we hear about it is when an alarmed patient or local chemist tells us there is a shortage."
On Wednesday, NSW mum Jennifer Goddard, from Bargo in NSW's Wollondilly shire told 10 daily that said she visited her local doctor for a new prescription for her son Jamie's EpiPen Jr. He's four years old and has a peanut allergy.
Like most with an allergy, Goddard said she had been advised by experts to keep at least two of the lifesaving adrenaline devices on hand, in case of delayed ambulance response times or other issues.
But when she spoke to her pharmacist, she claimed she was told suppliers had imposed a limit of one per person.
"I felt distressed. We live 40 minutes from a hospital. He's had anaphylaxis before, and we had to administer a second shot once," Goddard told 10 daily.
"He's supposed to have two at all times. I'm meant to have one at the daycare centre, have pens at school ... I'm fuming, a child could pass away as a result of not having their medicine available."
Goddard, who also manages a childcare centre in the area, claimed it was at least the third time she has struggled to obtain an EpiPen Jr. for Jamie.
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia said it was aware of the issue but urged people not to panic.
EpiPen models are distributed in Australia by pharmaceutical company Mylan, and manufactured in the United States by Pfizer company Meridian Medical Technologies.
Mylan Australia declined to comment.
However, a statement from Mylan posted on the website of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy -- the peak body for clinical immunology and allergy -- gave further details on the issue.
"Supply of EpiPen Jr. 150mcg adrenaline (epinephrine) autoinjectors has been affected due to manufacturing delays from the manufacturer in the US," the statement read.
"This means that there is currently a shortage of EpiPen Jr. and normal supply is expected by 31 January 2020."
Mylan instructs only one EpiPen Jr. should be distributed by pharmacists.
The distributor said this was intended to ensure "those at risk for a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) have access to the emergency treatment they may need."
"Whilst the use of an expired EpiPen Jr. adrenaline autoinjector is not ideal, research suggests that recently expired devices retain potency," the statement continued.
"Therefore, if no other EpiPen Jr. autoinjector is available, use of a recently expired EpiPen Jr. autoinjector to treat anaphylaxis is advised."
Patients requiring an EpiPen Jr. are being directed to contact their local pharmacy.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration noted the supply problem on its website on Wednesday.
"In this situation, people are told to hold onto their expired devices, to use the in-date device first then the recently expired device if they need it after that," Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia CEO Maria Said told 10 daily.
"It's not ideal but people can still carry two around, one of them just expired."
Said advised that EpiPen Jr. still had "great potency" even a few weeks past the expiry date.
She said the allergy information and support group has been pushing to expand local supply of EpiPens, recommending the federal government investigate an alternate supply route.
"It's an ongoing problem that has occurred, it's not the first time. We're very frustrated by it. This is a lifesaving device," Said said.