'There's nothing to give them': Patients, pharmacists scrounging for EpiPens

Patients and pharmacists nationwide are grappling with a persistent shortage of Mylan's EpiPen, forcing some to travel great distances or go through several hoops to access the lifesaving allergy treatment, according to Bloomberg.

EpiPens have been difficult to obtain since at least May 2018, when the FDA alerted the public to the shortage. While generic alternatives are available, they are often hard to secure due to uneven distribution, pushback from insurers on covering the similar treatment and patient uneasiness with unfamiliar products.

Patients across the nation are going to great lengths to obtain the lifesaving drug. Boston resident Justin Klaassen drove 45 minutes outside the city to find EpiPens for his 7-year-old daughter after calling every pharmacy within 10 miles.

"My family has enough money to buy one with insurance, you know, and even two, because you want one at school and you want one at home," Mr. Klaassen told Bloomberg. "But there are families out there who can’t even afford one, and then you have the problem finding them."

The inventory problems can be traced to September 2017, when Pfizer's Meridian Medical Technologies division, which manufacturer of EpiPen for Mylan, received a warning from the FDA about failing to investigate faulty injectors. The current shortage is still attributed to "manufacturing issues and delays."

Kim Bencker, a  Pfizer spokesperson told Bloomberg that EpiPen's have a "highly complex and technical" manufacturing process and that supply shortages will continue over the next few months. 

Pharmacists across the country are also struggling to get their hands on EpiPens.  Carter High, owner of Best Value Rhome Pharmacy in Texas, told Bloomberg its wholesaler has pushed back the date when more injectors would be available several times.

"As a parent, I look at that and think, God I wish I could help them," Mr. High told Bloomberg. "I can’t. There’s nothing to give them because I just can't get it."

He added that he often tells patients to keep expired EpiPen's because it is better "to have something than nothing."

Alternatives are available, but pharmacists say they are hard to come by. 

Earlier this year, Teva launched its generic rival to EpiPen. However, a New Jersey pharmacist Eklavya Lalwani told Bloomberg. "I've never actually seen Teva's product in the marketplace."

Read the full report here.

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