A SEVERE shortage of EpiPens across the locality could be putting lives at risk.
THE Department of Health confirmed that the emergency medical devices are indeed in short supply, after this newspaper raised the plight of the McGonigle family from Strabane.
Mum Karen McGonigle, from Glenevish Hill, contacted local MLA Daniel McCrossan after she was told that supplies of the pens were low. The prescription for her four-year-old son Alex runs out at the end of the month and as yet, a repeat prescription has not been achieved.
“My son, Alex has a nut allergy and requires EpiPens in case of anaphylactic shock if he should come into contact with peanuts. His current prescription runs out at the end of the month.
“When we handed in the script nearly three weeks ago and requested a new prescription, we were told that there are none available. We tried Derry too but they have the same problem. We are still waiting three weeks later.”
The McGonigles’ concerns were also taken up by SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan who subsequently wrote to Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly and chief pharmaceutical officer Mark Timoney.
“For families like the McGonigles this can be a matter of life or death,” Mr McCrossan said. “This is a province-wide problem and needs a province-wide solution. I have written to Richard Pengelly and Mark Timoney to ask them what they are doing to mitigate the risks of this EpiPen shortage.”
He added, “Last month, the Government in London suggested that drug companies should stockpile an additional six weeks of drugs above what they usually do. But this is happening now, ahead of Brexit.”
When contacted by this newspaper, the Department of Health confirmed there is a shortage and advised those affected “to retain their current EpiPens until a new supply can be obtained.”
A spokesperson said, “The Department of Health is 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.