The recall of thousands of epinephrine kits, used to counter the effects of severe allergies, particularly from bee stings and insect bites, has left area pharmacies with a shortage of treatment options.
But the problems along the Wasatch Front are less severe than those faced in other parts of the country, where doctors are urging consumers to hang onto their possibly defective kits until they can be replaced.Meridian Medical Technologies voluntarily recalled thousands of the EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. because some of them may not provide adequate doses of the medication, which is used to treat acute anaphylaxis reaction to an allergy.
The affected product was distributed in the United States by Dey Laboratories between July 1997 and April 1998.
Although the dose may not be enough in a defective pen, it's better than no epinephrine if faced with an allergy emergency, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
A telephone sampling of pharmacies along the Wasatch Front found that many of them are beginning to receive a few replacements for the recalled EpiPens, which allow someone who has a severe allergy to insect bites or other substances to inject epinephrine.
"It's been real spotty," said John Piz of the Albertson's Pharmacy in Bountiful. "But we've got a handful in now. We order them all the time and now we've started to get some in."
Piz said that when the EpiPens were recalled, doctors switched prescriptions to AnaKit Auto-Injectors. Soon they were out of those, too. But they, too, are beginning to reappear on shelves as the manufacturer meets increased demand.
"We had a few weeks where it was tough to get anything," Piz said, "but once we got past the initial surge of people needing them, it calmed down. It's not something most people use. They just need to keep one on hand, in case. Once you have a pen in hand, you have it for a while and it's good for a long time."
Several Smith's pharmacies reported they were still waiting for EpiPen replacements and have also run out of AnaKits.
The Apothecary Shoppe in Salt Lake City doesn't usually stock EpiPens. But it has plenty of AnaKits on hand, according to a pharmacist.
More than 500,000 people a year enter hospital emergency rooms as a result of severe reactions to insect stings, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
People who have had a severe reaction to an insect sting have a 60 percent chance of a similar or worse reaction if stung again. Most insect stings come from wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and bees.
The symptoms of an allergy can include hives, itching and swelling near the sting, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing and a hoarse voice or swollen tongue. With anaphylaxis, symptoms can also include dizziness, a sharp drop in blood pressure and unconsciousness or cardiac arrest. At least 40 deaths a year are attributed to insect sting allergies in the United States.