EpiPen on backorder at a number of local pharmacies Part of a nationwide shortage, experts say
PHOTO BY ERIKA NORTON
Local pharmacies are reporting having trouble getting Epipen, the life-saving drug severe allergy sufferers depend on in an emergency.
BY ERIKA NORTON and Kelly Sottilaro SUSSEX — A number of pharmacies in the Sussex County area are reporting having difficulty getting EpiPen, devices that deliver the life-saving drug that severe allergy sufferers depend on in the event of a potentially fatal emergency. According to a survey of 36 pharmacies in Northern New Jersey, 16 pharmacies said they had some version of the EpiPen, whether it be the brand name or generic, in stock, while 14 pharmacies said they did not have any EpiPen at the moment. Six pharmacies did not respond. At West Milford Pharmacy & Gift on Union Valley Road, Pharmacist Danny Gutkind said that the wholesale distributor they use, AmeriSourceBergen, only carries a few EpiPens at a time, so they usually order every day — “sometimes they have it, and sometimes they don’t.” Right now, he said they have one generic version available, and the EpiPen brand is expected on May 31. “What they’re basically doing is allocating, meaning they only have a certain amount at a time, I don’t know why, but there seems to be, unfortunately, a limited supply,” Gutkind said. “We use AmeriSourceBergen, a big wholsesaler. So if they’re having issues, it’s probably safe to assume that since they’re one of the big ones, that it’s a universal issue.” National shortage?Some experts say there is a national shortage, including the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). The group said that they determined there was a shortage of epinephrine auto-injectors from two major manufacturers: Mylan Pharmaceuticals, which makes EpiPen, EpiPen Jr., and authorized generic versions of both, and Impax Therapeutics, which makes an authorized generic version of Adrenaclick. Plus, more than 400 patients in 45 states reported difficulty filling prescriptions for EpiPen and other epinephrine autoinjectors since May 2, according to patient-advocacy group Food Allergy Research & Education. Despite these claims, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that Mylan has continued to report adequate supply of EpiPens in the U.S., and has not added EpiPen devices on its list of medical shortages. Pfizer, which owns Mylan, also released a statement saying, “We are currently shipping product; however, supplies may vary from pharmacy to pharmacy. We understand how important this potentially life-saving product is to patients, and we are working closely with Mylan to monitor supply levels so patients have access to epinephrine auto injector products.” ‘Delay in production’But while the FDA and Pfizer deny any national shortage, at the Weis Markets Pharmacy in Newton, Pharmacist Crystal Clark said that both the EpiPen brand name drug and the generic were both on backorder and listed as having “delays in production.” “Everything is ‘delays in production,’” Clark said. “I’m not really sure why. It could be allergy season and the fact that people usually get, we see an influx of EpiPen prescriptions for bees and other severe allergies.” Four other pharmacies in Newton reported not having EpiPens in stock. In West Milford, only one out of the three pharmacies called had EpiPen in stock, and both pharmacies called in Vernon were out. All three pharmacies in Sparta had EpiPen or the generics in stock, as well as pharmacies in Franklin, Sussex, Oak Ridge and Stanhope. Some pharmacies reported having only EpiPen Jr. available, which is a lower dose for young children. EpiPen prices ranged from $500 to over $700. The generic EpiPen ranged in price from $300 to $375. The few alternative options to EpiPen include Adrenaclick and it’s generic version, which are available at CVS pharmacies for about $100, as well as Auvi-Q, an often times much more expensive option costing several thousand dollars. But these options will not help patients trying to fill prescriptions for EpiPen. “It all depends on how the doctor writes the prescription,” Clark said. She said that as far as their supply at Weis Markets Pharmacy, there is no date listed as to when they can expect more EpiPen.