Epipen alternative returns to Canadian market amid shortage concerns
TORONTO -- Canadians with severe food allergies now have an alternative to the Epipen, which has been plagued by supply problems in recent years.
Toronto mom Kerri Torrey says families dealing with life-threatening allergies usually need several epinephrine auto-injectors for different environments such as school, the car, and at home. The frequent shortages of the auto-injectors have been worrying her.
“I always like to have three auto-injectors in the home at any given time” she says. “And there was a point where only one of them was actually not expired.”
Her teenaged daughter always liked the discreet Allerject model, which was first made available in Canada in 2013. The device was voluntarily recalled in 2015 by Sanofi, the former manufacturer. Quality control is highlighted in the current promotional campaign by United States device-maker Kaleo.
Allerject is slim and rectangular, making it easy to slip into a pocket or purse. It comes in a 0.15-miligram dose for children and 0.3-miligram dose for adults. It also provides audible instructions for the device user.
“Often the one who is having the allergic reaction isn’t the one who's going to be doing the injecting, it's going to be someone with them” says Torrey.
“Pull off red safety guard…To inject, place black end against outer thigh,” the device can be heard saying. “Then press firmly and hold in place for five seconds.”
“It’s almost like using a defibrillator” pediatric allergy specialist Dr. Douglas Mack said.
He says that while Epipens have been a great device, having an alternative is a relief for Canadian families.
“There are 2.6 million people living in Canada who are at risk of severe reactions. Many of these patients need multiple epinephrine auto-injectors so having this option for our families is huge.”
Mack said that hoarding of Epipens, as well as puffers and inhalers, early in the pandemic caused potential shortages for many families and he hopes that will ease now.
The other problem aggravated by COVID-19, Torrey says, is food insecurity. When many food staples were running low early in the pandemic, some families were concerned about getting the regular food items they knew were safe for their children with allergies. Her daughter is allergic to tree nuts like cashews and pistachios, relatively expensive ingredients that she says are often prominently listed on food labels. But for families dealing with other allergies like wheat or eggs, the dangers of hidden allergens are greater.
On the other hand, she says isolation has benefits for her daughter too.
“She's eating out less and I'm doing all the food prep. And I'm doing all the grocery shopping for the family so I can read all the labels.”
But she does worry a little about when isolation eases and her daughter returns to restaurants and eating out.