Nationwide Epi-Pen Shortage Hits West Frankfort Pharmacy - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Nationwide Epi-Pen Shortage Hits West Frankfort Pharmacy

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WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. -- There are 150 people on a waiting list for Epi-Pens (or its generic brands) at the J & S Pharmacy in West Frankfort.

Twenty of those patients are categorized as "critical"-- mostly children with peanut or insect allergies that could potentially die from an allergic reaction. Owner Joyce Fogleman said a Memphis-based wholesale company hasn't distributed the brand-name Epi-Pen since early 2017 or its generic alternatives since March.

The Food and Drug Administration made a decision this week Fogleman said she hasn't seen in her 36 years of practice: advising patients to use some Epi-Pens that are four months past their expiration date.

"Even if it's out of date on some lots ... go ahead, keep them," she said. "An out-of-date one would be more beneficial than nothing at all."

The shortage comes after a manufacturing plant in Missouri produced a batch of Epi-Pens that malfunctioned. The medicine inside the syringe wasn't coming out, which led to several deaths across the U.S. in 2017.

It's been over a month since West Frankfort mom Cheryl Arnold submitted an Epi-Pen prescription for her 14-year-old daughter.

"This is longest we've had to wait for any Epi-Pen," Arnold said.

Arnold's daughter suffers from anaphylaxis and could die from some of her allergies. Arnold has several Epi-Pens and generic versions on-hand but most are expired. For this mom, keeping track of allergens and stocking life-saving medication is constant.

"This is reality, you know? It's everything we do. We visit the amusement park. We have to think about what we are going to either take to eat ... or we have to plan ahead of time. Or we have to call the company and find out if there's anything available for her to eat," Arnold said.

Fogleman empathizes with these parents who are struggling to get by without the medicine that could mean life and death for their children.

"It's very upsetting and it's critical for those families. Can you imagine sending your kids to school with a life-threatening allergy and no antidote?" Fogleman asked.

A spike in the cost of Epi-Pens came in 2016, and now the average wholesale price is $730 for a medication that was at one point $57. 

The Pharmaceutical company Mylan was the only company with the right to sell the drug, but the FDA this week approved a generic version of the Epi-Pen. Many hope the decision will drive down the price and drive up the supply.

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