NI mum says EpiPen shortage putting lives at risk

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The Belfast mother of a nine-year-old boy with wide range of life-threatening allergies says a shortage of adrenaline pens is putting her son’s life - and that of thousands of others - in danger.

Michelle Henry’s son Darragh is allergic to various types of food, the environment and a range of medicines.

But problems in the production of EpiPen, the main brand of adrenaline injector, have led to a shortage.

“I carry a medical pack for Darragh, with adrenaline pens, antihistamines and lots of other inhalers and tummy medicines,” Michelle told the BBC.

Darragh’s allergies are so extreme he once stopped breathing after omelettes were served on an plane.

He and his mother always carry two pens each and two are also left at his school. But other children may need as many as ten.

She recently carried out a rather worried journey across a range of Belfast pharmacies to try and find a new pen to restock her supplies, but many shops were sold out. She was desperately relieved when she found one.

“Two to three years ago I was faced with the exact same problem and I understand there’s a current issue, so it’s not a one-off.

“If you ask me, it’s actually an increasing problem.

“Three years ago, when I couldn’t get a replacement EpiPen, I switched to Jext. And that was fine whenever there was an alternative there.

“But the situation we’re faced with this year is that even the alternative has run dry and even the third alternative, which is a lesser-known brand, has run dry.

“The only other option open to parents is actually getting adrenaline and drawing it up in a syringe.

“These pens are life-saving. They make it easy for you not to have to think as a parent or a carer in a situation where your child has collapsed - and I have seen my child in such a situation. It’s just not good enough.”

EpiPen makers Mylan said pharmaceutical company Pfizer was “working hard” to increase production and said supply would stabilise towards the end of the year.

The Department of Health said it was “aware of an ongoing issue with intermittent supply constraints of EpiPen 0.3mg and EpiPen Jr 0.15mg Adrenaline Auto-Injectors due to manufacturing delays.

“It is unable to make any specific treatment recommendation to individual patients but would advise that there are two alternative adrenaline auto-injector products available in the UK.

“Patients who are concerned about the current supply constraints of EpiPens should speak to their GP practice regarding the possibility of alternative treatments.

“The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) is actively monitoring the availability of all adrenaline auto-injectors in conjunction with wholesalers, and has issued advice to prescribers and community pharmacies in Northern Ireland.”