Longer-dated EpiPen Junior is on its way, as the mainstream media suggests pharmacist stockpiling
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported on the EpiPen Junior shortage, saying that families are having to buy short-dated stock and that pharmacy behaviour could be a factor.
Reporter Henrietta Cook writes that families are currently “scrambling” to find EpiPens with a shelf life stretching beyond July 2021.
She spoke to Pharmacy Guild of Australia Victorian president Anthony Tassone, who confirmed that pharmacists are finding it frustrating that their patients are unable to access devices with longer expiry dates.
She also spoke to Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia chief executive Maria Said, who reportedly said that “she believes the issue stems from pharmacies placing large orders during the early panic-buying days of the pandemic and that they are now struggling to move the stock”.
However the AJP spoke to Ms Said on Friday, who said that this was not an accurate reflection of her comments, and neither she nor her organisation were casting blame on pharmacy.
“I said that sometimes pharmacists are purchasing devices from wholesalers, and that there is an influx of people at times – and they might be left with one or two, and obviously they’re going to move them from their shelves before they order more in,” she said.
“That’s very different to saying they stockpiled.”
She said she was also quoted as having said there should be a discount to patients on short-dated stock, but she had said that this “could be considered, not should”.
She said that Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia remains concerned about the shortage of EpiPen Junior with longer dates, however, coming as it has on the heels of an initial, longer shortage, and then the need for everyone involved to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My understanding was that with the pandemic, there was a real scurry on EpiPen Junior at the time,” she said.
“The company [then Mylan, now Viatris, which was formed when Mylan combined with Pfizer’s Upjohn in late 2020] worked hard to bring more devices in to prevent another shortage. I think we’re still seeing the after-effects.
“But at this point in time, my understanding is that people should be able to get EpiPen Junior with an expiry of October 2021.”
The article also suggested Viatris had told a concerned parent that, “a hold-up with the supply line and by the time it gets here it has lost most of its shelf life” had caused the issue.
Viatris itself told the AJP that, “Over the past 12 months, during the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for EpiPen Junior 150 mcg Adrenaline (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors increased up to five times normal”.
“To ensure all patient needs were met, Viatris increased its supply of pens accordingly. This has resulted in a large number of EpiPen Junior pens expiring at the same time. Longer-dated stock will soon become available.”
Anthony Tassone told the AJP that, “Medicine shortages has been an ongoing problem over the past few years and shows no sign of improving”.
“Whilst the COVID pandemic has shone a spotlight on it as a major challenge in delivering healthcare, it hasn’t been solely responsible for what we’re experiencing.
“Whilst the Guild continues to be an active participant on the medicine shortages working group with the TGA and other stakeholders, we have been assisting members contacting their local MP to highlight how serious this issue can be in ongoing continuity of care for their patients.”
He said that the Guild is happy to hear from members who would like assistance with contacting their MP to raise concerns about the problem.
“Pharmacies are doing everything to avoid interruption for treatment for their patients,” he said.
“We understand the frustration our patients and their families experience as a result of these outages, we feel just as annoyed but will do everything we can to help.”
Meanwhile Ms Said said that it is potentially dangerous to advise people to hold onto expired devices when there are shortages.
“The important thing is that we keep communicating openly,” she told the AJP.
“If consumers or GPs or pharmacists are unsure, they can contact Viatris or call us, as we have current information and will be able to assist pharmacists to assist consumers.
“We will also continue to advocate for another supplier, so that people and doctors have choices.”