One mother who this week phoned five different pharmacies and one hospital was told that none had any stock due to an ongoing EpiPen Junior shortage – even though distributor Mylan Australia, required by law to update the market on shortages, advised on February 6 that it had enough stock to meet demand.
Pharmacy Guild president George Tambassis said many pharmacists had EpiPens on back order, but Ms Said said this was not good enough after a shortage.
“Unless you’re a proactive pharmacist, you get caught out,” Mr Tambassis said. “They’re in and out of stock all the time.”
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Chris Freeman said pharmacists would be able to get EpiPens in stock within 24 hours if they did not have any on the shelf.
Australians with allergies have for years had to deal with fluctuating availability of EpiPens – manufactured exclusively by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which holds the patent to the auto-injector pen used to deliver the dose of adrenalin – due to global supply issues.
Efforts to secure approval for an alternative device to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme have stalled.
A previous national shortage of adult EpiPens was resolved in January 2019, but Ms Said said she was still fielding calls from people who could not find them in pharmacies a year later.
Mylan Australia has previously written to pharmacists advising them to contact their primary wholesaler to reorder EpiPens and to “refresh” standing orders on a weekly basis, saying stock “is being shipped continually”.
Mr Freeman said the society was working with the government on ways to address medicine shortages more broadly, such as through alternative dosages.
The federal government brought in new laws last year to force companies to report medicine shortages to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Ms Said said the new reporting system was working, but pharmacists needed to act on the information and re-order EpiPens as soon as they became available again.
Comment has been sought from the government.