EpiPen shortage: What you need to know

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- Pharmacists are seeing a shortage of one type of device used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions.

EpiPens contain epinephrine, a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone adrenaline. Doctors say the drug can reverse a life-threatening allergic reaction to things like bee stings, shellfish or nuts.

"The patient has a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis; the blood pressure drops. They can't breathe. They get hives," said Immunologist Anthony Demeo M.D.

The chance of exposure becomes greater as the weather improves and people spend more time outside. Problem is, pharmacists are having trouble getting their hands on one particular brand of EpiPen.

"Right now, the suppliers are regulating how much you can have and how much they can dispense," said David Valencia of Bacon East Pharmacy.

The shortage affects pens made by drug manufacturer Mylan, which is having trouble because of manufacturing problems, which are made by a division of Pfizer.

The problem was severe enough that the FDA put the Mylan EpiPens on its list of drugs that may experience shortages. The agency said it had received reports of "intermittent supply constraints."

Mylan also released a statement saying there may be spot shortages, but "product is available and Mylan is currently receiving continual supply from its manufacturing partner Meridian Medical Technologies.

The good news is there are other options.

"The generic pens are available and you can get them from several different manufacturers," said Valencia.

Dr. DeMeo tells his patients that in a pinch they can do it the old-fashioned way with a hypodermic needle and a bottle of epinephrine. "You can...draw up a little bit to give to the patient to take home until they get their prescription."

All sides agree that any shortage will be short-lived.
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