EpiPen alternative to be imported from U.S. amid shortage, health minister says

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says a U.S.-approved auto-injector will be imported to ease Canada's current shortage of EpiPen injectors to treat life-threatening allergies.

Both EpiPen and Auvi-Q deliver same labelled dose of epinephrine

A woman teaches educators about allergies and the use of EpiPens in Clinton, Mich.. The auto-injectors are used to treat reactions to life-threatening allergies. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/Associated Press)

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says a U.S.-approved auto-injector will be imported to ease Canada's current shortage of EpiPen injectors to treat life-threatening allergies. 

Since the spring, there's been an ongoing shortage of EpiPen (0.3 mg) and EpiPen Jr. (0.15 mg) at pharmacies. There are concerns about the availability of injectors as many children head back to school.

The alternate injector called Auvi-Q, made by Kaléo, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The minister's interim order means Auvi-Q auto-injectors can be imported for two weeks for sale, starting immediately. The order can be extended for up to one year. 

Both EpiPen and Auvi-Q deliver the same labelled dose of epinephrine.

Unlike EpiPen, Auvi-Q has a retractable needle and an electronic voice instruction system to guide users through each step of the injection, Health Canada said. 

Auvi-Q 0.3 mg injectors are expected to be available for pharmacies to order by the end of the week and on shelves by Sept. 7. The company could also make the 0.15 mg version available under the interim order if needed.‎

During the shortage, Pfizer and Health Canada have directed pharmacists to ration their current EpiPen stocks. Last week, Pfizer Canada said EpiPen Jr (0.15 mg) continues to be available.

"Pharmacists only giving out one prescription at a time as a precautionary measure to make sure that everybody could get access to some level of product. That's not where we want to be," said Jennifer Gerdts, executive director of Food Allergy Canada, who has two  teenage boys with multiple food allergies.

"The solution long term is two doses when you go to your pharmacy and having available supply on an ongoing basis. We think that is having a minimum of two manufacturers in this space in Canada."

As an emergency measure, Health Canada also directed people to keep and use their expired EpiPens if they are needed during the current shortage.