EpiPen demand increases after Allerject recall

Pfizer Canada expects EpiPen shipments will be available to meet an unexpected increase in demand by the end of November.

Shortage follows recall of device for emergency treatment of severe allergic reactions

EpiPen shortage expected

7 years ago
Duration 2:13
Pfizer expects to have short periods of constrained EpiPen supplies because of an unexpected increase in demand caused by the recall of another prescribed medicine

Pfizer Canada expects EpiPen shipments will be available to meet an unexpected increase in demand by the end of November following a recall of Allerject auto-injectors. 

Epinephrine auto-injectors are used as an emergency treatment by patients who have a history of serious allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis, or who are at risk because of allergies to foods, insect bites and stings, medicines or other substances.

Pfizer said Friday it's shipped the current inventory of EpiPens to wholesalers for Canadian patients.

The company, which is the Canadian distributor of EpiPens, plans to distribute five times its usual monthly inventory of the devices. 

On Wednesday, drug company Sanofi recalled all lots of its Allerject auto-injectors in Canada in the 0.15 mg and 0.3 mg strengths, which led to an increase in demand for its competitor's product, EpiPens.

Sanofi also recalled its Auvi-Q brand of auto-injectors sold in the U.S.

Sanofi said the reason for the recall is the device could potentially deliver an inaccurate amount of epinephrine.

"As this is a life-saving device, it is important that consumers return the recalled device and seek a replacement epinephrine auto-injector," a spokeswoman for Sanofi said in an email on Friday.

"In the absence of availability of an alternate epinephrine auto-injector, patients are instructed to retain their Allerject device until an alternate auto-injector is available."

Kim Wagner Jones says her son was vomiting and having trouble breathing when he recently had an allergic reaction. (CBC)

Both Allerject and EpiPen deliver identical doses of epinephrine. Each contains a needle that injects the medication deeply into the thigh muscle, which is considered the most efficient way to get the medication.

The recalled Allerject device has a voice component to prompt someone with step-by-step instructions on how to use it.

"This recall is due to issues that may potentially affect the delivery of the required amount of the drug, epinephrine. Allerject is used as an emergency treatment by patients who are at risk and/or have a history of serious allergic reactions," Sanofi said.

Health Canada said in the event of analyphylaxis before someone can obtain a replacement auto injector, then they should use the Allerject device as directed and seek emergency medical attention.

'It was very frightening'

Kim Wagner Jones is a registered dietitian in Calgary and has two sons, 19 and 25, who grew up with anaphylactic allergies to peanuts and kiwi.

The 19-year-old recently had an allergic reaction.

"He was vomiting, having trouble breathing, his skin was itchy, his airways were closing up," said Wagner Jones.

"It was very frightening and physically very difficult. An anaphylactic reaction really takes its toll on the body."

Her son injected himself in the leg with an Allerject device and a friend called 911 for further instructions on what to do.

Wagner Jones said she heard about the Allerject recall from an email alert sent by Food Allergy Canada.

"I called my pharmacist and asked her to please set aside some EpiPens," Wagner Jones said. "About five minutes later she phoned me back and said: fortunately, I have three EpiPens on hand, but I've had to back order another one for you."

Wagner Jones said the family is hoping that more EpiPens will be produced or the Allerject situation gets resolved quickly.

Health Canada said the Allerject recall applies to all lots of the devices with voice instructions.


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