Concerns for EpiPen shortage ahead of school year

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Back in May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration added EpiPens to their list of drug shortages — indicating it is available but facing “intermittent supply constraints” due to manufacturing delays.

Mike Koezler, who owns Kay Pharmacy in Grand Rapids, told 24 Hour News 8 he’s seen shortages long before now.

“One of the problems is there’s only one manufacturer that really makes the name brand EpiPen,” Koezler explained via video Friday. 

That manufacturer is Mylan — a pharmaceutical company that was criticized by lawmakers for consistently raising the price of EpiPens before eventually making a cheaper version.

“They can raise the prices pretty much indiscriminately and the supply… it’s really all up to them,” Koezler said. 

Friday, 24 Hour News 8 checked with three locally-owned pharmacies and one national chain in Grand Rapids and found good news: all of them had at least some EpiPens or an alternative drug in stock. 

Additionally, an allergist at Spectrum said their patients haven’t had trouble getting the drug, either. 

But Koezler said there could soon be more parents looking to buy the drug now that school is near and parents will have less oversight of their kids.

“If I was a parent, I would be concerned,” Koezler said.”Because we’re not talking a skin rash or something. We’re talking a child who could die if they don’t have this medicine should a reaction come up.”

While alternatives to EpiPens do exist, Koezler said design differences have made them tricky for pharmacists to prescribe.

That is, until now. On Thursday, the FDA approved a new, direct generic competitor to EpiPens. It could have a major impact and offer long-needed relief, Koezler said. 

“It allows a lot of things. It allows competition: the price goes down and more companies can make it, which then increases the supply of the drug. Hopefully, this is the last year we see this problem with the shortage of EpiPens,” he said. 

It’s unclear exactly when the new generic will be on the shelves or how much it will cost.

A new state law established a few years ago requires that schools keep some EpiPens in stock, though Koezler recommends all parents ensure kids have their own device for teachers to administer while at school.

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