EpiPen shortage hits Canberra allergy patients
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EpiPen shortage hits Canberra allergy patients

Shauna Callaghan's son Ben has never had to use an EpiPen to treat an anaphylactic reaction, but she said it's reassuring to have one around just in case.

"He's very aware of [his allergies], it's all he's ever known," she said.

Shauna Callaghan with her son Ben Garani.

Shauna Callaghan with her son Ben Garani.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

"We've never had to use the EpiPen, but he's very aware that it's there and that it would save his life."

Ben, 16, has severe allergic reactions to both peanuts and seafood, and has had the allergies since he was two years old.

Ben Garani, who has severe nut allergies, is concerned about the shortage of EpiPens in Canberra.

Ben Garani, who has severe nut allergies, is concerned about the shortage of EpiPens in Canberra.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos
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While the Banks resident said Ben was very careful with the food he eats, in the event of an anaphylactic reaction, he could be in even more danger due to a nationwide shortage of EpiPens.

EpiPen supplies have been low throughout the country for several months and some experts have recommended using out-of-date stock in the case of an emergency.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said it was working with Australian supplier Alphapharm to bring supplies into the country.

New stock is expected to arrive in the coming weeks, although a TGA spokesman said supplies would be limited.

"Although new stock is starting to arrive, supplies will remain tight as back orders and emergency supply is dealt with," the spokesman said.

"To avoid, stockpiling, Alphapharm is working with wholesalers to implement an allocation system to ensure all pharmacies can get stock."

Ms Callaghan said she was affected by the shortage last weekend, after trying to replace an out-of-date EpiPen, with multiple chemists across Canberra out of stock.

"I rang about 10 different chemists until I was eventually told what the protocol is in order to get one," she said.

"You get conflicting advice, because this has been going on for some time. They've been promising for a few months that EpiPens will be back in supply."

In order to receive the life-saving injections, Ms Callaghan said she had to take the prescription, the expired EpiPen as well as the batch number to a chemist, and they would be sent to the supplier to receive an emergency EpiPen.

However, Ms Callaghan only received one, rather than the normal two.

"Normally what's happened over the previous 14 years is that you get two because Ben is still at school, so one would stay at home and school would have one," she said.

The TGA spokesman said the recent procedure has been in place for several months in order to ration supplies during the shortage.

"Patients and carers should hold on to soon-to-expire EpiPens and use them in the case of an emergency, as long as the liquid inside isn't discoloured or contains sediment," the spokesman said.

"The TGA has been working with a different sponsor to import product not approved in Australia but approved overseas to alleviate the shortage situation with EpiPens but supply of the product has not yet commenced."

Andrew Brown is a journalist at the Sunday Canberra Times. Andrew has worked at the Canberra Times since 2016.

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