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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Junior EpiPen shortage putting children's lives at risk, say parents 

There is currently a global shortage of the life-saving medication and many private pharmacies in Abu Dhabi have run out of stock 

Shortage of EpiPens for children worrying parents of children with severe allergies. Paulo Vecina / The National 
Shortage of EpiPens for children worrying parents of children with severe allergies. Paulo Vecina / The National 

Parents in the UAE are struggling to locate EpiPens, putting their children's lives at risk.

EpiPens, used to treat severe allergic reactions, administer a shot of adrenalin or epinephrine to reverse the symptoms of anaphylactic shock. This includes severe throat swelling caused by an allergic reaction to things such as food, drugs, insect bites or stings.

There is currently a worldwide EpiPen shortage due to a series of manufacturing supply disruptions that have been ongoing since May. Many private pharmacies across Abu Dhabi have run out of stock of junior EpiPens, designed to treat children.

Parents have even turned to social media in an effort to locate them. Rebecca, from the US, posted on the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page for leads.

Her son, John, 12, suffers from severe allergies to dairy and nuts.

“We found out [about his allergies] when he was nine months old. I had given him macaroni and cheese and his whole face broke out in a rash of hives immediately,” she said.

Her son has needed an EpiPen ever since, and she usually gets her prescription each summer in the US, but was unable to this time around due to the shortage.

“I started panicking and looking at Facebook. I said 'does anyone know if anyone has it?' And they said 'yes, no problem. It’s really easy to get here'. But now I am having the same problem trying to get an EpiPen here,” she said.

Her son’s EpiPen has now expired, and she was forced to plead with the school nurses to accept it, even though it is against the rules.

“I have nothing else and he needs something."

She said she has tried all the major hospital pharmacies with no success.

The National called ten Abu Dhabi private and hospital pharmacies and was unable to locate a junior EpiPen.

The Second Street branch of Medicina and the pharmacy inside Healthpoint Hospital both said they were in contact with the supplier, who said more stock is expected around the third week of September.

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Freya Jaffar, who set up the Abu Dhabi Q&A page five years ago, also has a child with a severe allergy. She recently had to turn to her group for help to locate an EpiPen for her daughter Elanah, 4.

She has a life-threatening allergy to nuts that was discovered in November 2016.

“I went grocery shopping that day,” said Mrs Jaffar. “As usual, I got nuts and I specifically mixed a bowl of pecans and walnuts and I put them on the table. She grabbed a handful and started nibbling on them. It wasn’t even half a minute — it was a moment. Her lips swelled up to about four times their size and she started choking,” she said.

She said she often has problems finding EpiPens and has twice had to turn to her group for help.

Last year, she found one in a private pharmacy, thanks to members’ help. But she had no such success this year until a friend tipped her off that public hospitals operated by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company had some.

The Ministry of Health has been contacted for a comment.

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