Children with severe allergies face difficulties with treatment as a popular medicine has been declared “out of stock” amid an ongoing shortage.
EpiPen and EpiPen Junior devices, supplied by Mylan and produced by Pfizer, have faced shortages in the UK and other countries for months, but the Junior version is now unavailable.
A statement issued to healthcare providers on behalf of the Department of Health noted: “EpiPen and EpiPen Junior will be subject to limited availability for the remainder of 2018.
“Mylan are now out of stock of EpiPen Junior and interruptions in the supply are anticipated to continue for the coming months.”
More of the Junior devices are expected in stock in October, but it is not clear whether these will meet demand.
EpiPens are the most common adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) devices and are issued to people who suffer from serious allergies. People are recommended to keep two AAIs with them at all times in case of reaction.
The standard device contains 300mcg of adrenaline. Smaller 150mcg “Junior” AAIs are issued to children who weigh 4st 10lb (30kg) or less.
Meanwhile, adults and older children are being advised they can use their devices up to four months beyond the listed expiry date in an attempt to maintain supply levels.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has agreed to a request to extend the expiry on some batches of the 300mcg devices.
A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care to healthcare providers said: “Mylan have obtained acceptance from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to extend the use of specific batch numbers of EpiPen 300mcg auto-injectors beyond the labelled expiry date for four months.”
The extension does not apply to any EpiPen Junior devices.
EpiPens can only be used once and have an expiry date of at least 12 months.
Last week an inquest heard that 15 year-old Natasha Ednan-Laprose died on a flight after suffering a serious allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger baguette containing sesame seeds. This was despite her father injecting her with two EpiPen devices.
There are two other adrenaline auto-injector devices available in the UK: Emerade and Jext. Suppliers of both medicines are working to increase their supplies to the UK over the coming months.
Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure patients continue to access the medications they need and we have issued detailed guidance to healthcare professionals.
“Other brands of adrenaline auto-injectors are available in the UK and we are working closely with Mylan and Pfizer to find a solution to the problem as soon as possible.
“Any patient unable to obtain supplies of EpiPen should speak to their clinician about using an alternative brand.”