As of at least August 2018 (though some sources mention it as early as May of last year), there has been a shortage of available epinephrine for consumers.
This is a scary situation, as epinephrine is the single most crucial remedy for an anaphylactic reaction to a food allergy. Proper and timely administration of epinephrine is often the difference between a person living or dying from a food allergy.
FARE, of course, has a great page about the shortage that they continually update. This same page also links to HealthMart, which has a tool that you can use to find independent pharmacies in your area that may have the availability of stock of epinephrine.
There are also several other places (MarketWatch, AllergicLiving, The Lancet) that comment on the issue, and each has some good advice/tips on dealing with the shortage and finding available epinephrine auto-injectors in your area. Most of these are several months old, being written after the initial deficit was announced, but still, have relevant information.
Despite all of that, you do have options.
Extended Expiration Dates
Pfizer and the FDA have issued extensions on the expiration dates printed on some lots of EpiPens, to alleviate some of the shortage (Link). “The extension of the expiration dates does not apply to EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) 0.15 mg Auto-Injectors and its authorized generic version. Patients must continue to adhere to the manufacturer’s expiry date labeled on EpiPen Jr® 0.15 mg and Epinephrine Injection, USP Auto-Injectors 0.15 products.”
Independent Studies on Effectiveness
In addition to the above, there have been independent studies conducted indicating that EpiPens retain a high level of concentration and effectiveness long after their labeled expiration dates. CNN posted an article that links to one such study (and several other resources)
We have always kept ALL of Shaun’s expired EpiPens as backups for his valid, non-expired, auto-injectors. Our thought process has always been that we’d rather have expired epinephrine, than none at all.
Alternative to EpiPen
There are alternatives to EpiPens as well. Trained medical professionals can, and will, sometimes use epinephrine drawn from a vial and injected via syringe. Most people who aren’t trained professionals though, generally aren’t comfortable with this method, especially in a chaotic or tense moment when you, or someone you care about, may be in danger.
Auvi-Q is a relatively recent addition to the auto-injector market, and in a lot of ways is already better than the EpiPen (in our opinion). It is considerably smaller and more comfortable to carry and tends to be the one we grab if we want to just put one in our pocket, rather than bringing Shaun’s entire backpack with us somewhere.
The Auvi-Q also has voice instructions on how to administer it, should you ever be in a situation where someone may be completely unfamiliar with how to give an auto-injector. Auvi-Q offers its “Kaléo Cares Patient Assistance Program,” which can significantly reduce, or even offset the cost of their auto-injectors completely.
More treatments are being developed every day. Hopefully, Big-Pharma will embrace the scientifically-proven concentrations that epinephrine can maintain for years after their labeled expiration dates. And ideally, shortages will start to decrease soon.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.