Updated Oct. 31, 2015 – Pfizer Canada, which distributes the EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector in Canada, has scrambled to meet an unprecedented demand for its emergency devices in the wake of a national recall from the makers of the competing Allerject auto-injector.
“We have to distribute five times our usual monthly inventory, so we didn’t have the inventory to meet the demand at that specific time,” said Manon Genin, manager of corporate affairs for Pfizer Canada. The Canadian headquarters has shipped out all of its existing stock of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. devices, and a new supply of the auto-injectors is coming quickly from EpiPen corporate headquarters in the United States.
“We have several additional shipments planned, and we will have sufficient inventory to meet the unexpected increase by the month (November) end,” Genin said.
In the meantime, Allergic Living has been told of some auto-injector shortages in the last days of October, most notably in Nova Scotia and parts of Alberta and Ontario. Some families of allergic children have reported difficulty locating EpiPens. In some pharmacies that are temporarily sold out of EpiPens, pharmacists have advised patients to hold onto their existing Allerject auto-injectors until the new EpiPen stock arrives.
To manage the Canadian supply issues in the short-term, Sanofi Canada, which markets the Allerject device, has asked patients and pharmacists to limit replacing recalled devices to one auto-injector per patient until EpiPen’s new supplies are in circulation. (The exception is when a physician advises otherwise).
If EpiPens are temporarily sold out in a few areas, Sanofi Canada also advises holding onto a recalled Allerject until it can be replaced.
The Canadian Society of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, the allergists’ organization, noted in a statement to Food Allergy Canada that, due to the size of the Allerject recall, “it may take some time” for the replacement process to be completed. The CSACI counsels that, “while families are waiting for their EpiPen replacement device, they should not hesitate to use their Allerject in the event of anaphylaxis, following the directions they have been previously given by their physicians.”
Sanofi Canada says it had an estimated 490,000 Allerject units in distribution in Canada, precipitating the huge demand with the recall on Oct. 28, 2015.
All Sanofi Allerject (Canada) and Auvi-Q (United States) auto-injectors were taken off the market following 26 suspected malfunctions related to the devices potentially delivering insufficient epinephrine. Those with food allergies are always supposed to carry the emergency auto-injector, and preferably two of them, in case of a potentially life-threatening reaction.
If you own an Allerject: See this Sanofi Canada’s website here for information on how to get a replacement device without additional cost.
Advice for an allergic reaction from Dr. Paul Chew, chief medical officer for Sanofi in North America: “The first thing patients should do is seek out an alternative auto-injector, but in the event of someone having an anaphylactic reaction, patients who do not have a replacement product should use their Allerject device and then immediately call 911 and seek emergency medical help.” See full interview with Dr. Chew here.
Allergist Dr. Susan Waserman addresses the situation in this video.
EpiPen Canada release here.