There is a shortage of the only auto-injectors available in Canada to rescue people with deadly allergies. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

Life-saving Epipen in short supply

The worrisome news for people with life-threatening allergies is that there is a shortage of EpiPen auto-injectors for adults and an imminent shortage of EpiPens for children in Canada. It’s estimated that about two per cent of Canadians are in danger of anaphylaxis, the deadly reaction to allergens that may involve food, insect bites or medications.

For people with severe allergies, death can come within minutes of exposure but use of an EpiPen can alleviate symptoms in time for them to get to hospital. There is no alternative drug available in Canada.

For some people a bee sting can cause a life-threatening reaction. Others may have a deadly reaction to certain drugs or foods like peanuts, fish, eggs, milk or a host of other foods.

Have more than one, recommends Health Canada

The government agency, Health Canada, says EpiPen products expire on the last day of the month indicated on the product label. It adds that if someone is having an anaphylactic reaction and only has an expired auto-injector, they should use it anyway and immediately call emergency services for transport to hospital.

The agency also recommends that people have more than one auto-injector with different expiry dates to avoid having only an expired EpiPen.

The shortage does not necessarily mean there are no EpiPens in pharmacies now, but inventory is limited and it is being carefully managed.

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