EpiPen shortage continues to affect Wisconsin families before school year

MADISON (WKOW) — As kids get ready to head back to school, many parents are having a hard time finding a life-saving drug to send them to school with. It’s all due to a nationwide shortage on EpiPens that’s hitting local pharmacies and families, hard. 

Doctors say it’s a shot that can save a life. The EpiPen is given to someone, perhaps even your child, if he or she is experiencing a serious allergic reaction. 

"Most common ones are bee stings, seafood allergies, peanuts," said Alex Weisenberger, a pharmacy technician at Community Pharmacy in Madison. 

Several kids suffer from such allergies and some schools require students who may need an EpiPen, to bring one to school. But this year, that may be hard to do. 

Weisenberger had to turn several people away, knowing many families around Dane County are feeling the impact of an EpiPen shortage. 

"We would love to see them fly off the shelves and we have a great deal of patients who are on this medication and would like to get this filled, but cannot because we don’t have it," he explained. 

He and other pharmacists around the country said the shortage is due to the main manufacturer of the drug, not being able to meet the high demand. 

"They keep saying possibly the end of the month or the end of next month you’ll be able to get some in," Weisenberger said. 

For about the past eight months Weisenberger has tried ordering what he can of the drug, but he only ever receives two to three EpiPens every couple of months. 

"We might get a couple in and they’re gone within a week," he said. 

It’s not just Madison that’s feeling the shortage. It’s a nationwide shortage, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Across the state-lines, pharmacists in Rockford are having trouble keeping it in stock as well. 

"It seems to be a little bit more exaggerated this year than previous years. It becomes stressful especially if you run out, because we want to make sure patients get one as soon as possible," said Tom Carey, director of pharmacy at Swedish American, as he spoke with our sister-station WREX-TV. 

The main manufacturer for the name-brand EpiPen drug, Mylan, acknowledged the shortage in a statement on their website. 

It reads in part, "Over the past few months, there has been intermittent supply of EpiPen at wholesalers and pharmacies. We are actively exploring several options with Pfizer that would help stabilize supply. We will continue to provide updates, including timing for resolution, as we receive them from Pfizer."

Although there’s no timeline on when the company can meet the high demand, Weisenberger said he will continue doing inventory at his pharmacy, knowing he won’t be counting any EpiPens. 

"What surprises me most is that this drug is pretty much a life or death drug. It shouldn’t ever go into shortages," Weisenberger added. 

If you can’t find any EpiPens at your local pharmacy, some pharmacists recommend you ask you doctor to prescribe you an epinephrine vial and you can make your own EpiPen with a syringe.

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