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EpiPen Shortage Causes Many To Turn To Auvi-Q As Alternative

CHICAGO (CBS) -- For many, an EpiPen could be the only thing standing between an allergic reaction and death; but EpiPens may be hard to find in Chicago as they are out of stock at major pharmacies, with no shipments on the way. CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez reports there are several alternatives.

14-year-old Natalie Hultquist will head back to school with books, supplies, and epinephrine injectors because of her food allergies. She says she's trying the Auvi-Q brand after a close call trying to get an EpiPen when she was away at camp.

"I opened my purse and saw the set I knew she normally carried," recalled Natalie's mother, Susie Hultquist. She said she immediately called the pharmacies near where her daughter was attending camp.

"It was pretty frantic because they were closing in 15 minutes and she was 20 minutes away," Susie Hultquist recalled.  But the pharmacy was sold-out. "The ripple effect was tremendous – a lot of time, a lot of stress. It would've been easier if the EpiPen was available and it just wasn't."

Pfizer, which manufactures EpiPens, told CBS 2, the company "continues to experience manufacturing constraints" and "cannot guarantee that product will be available."

Doctors say the timing couldn't be worse.

"When kids go back to school, this is when we usually give them their refills," said Doctor Payal Adhikari of Child and Adolescent Health.

Many are turning to Auvi-Q as another option. Auvi-Q cannot be found at Walgreens or CVS Pharmacies and may not be covered by insurance; but Hultquist, who also started a resource app for people with food allergies, called Spokin, says if you ask your doctor, you may be able to get them for free.

"It's a specialty pharmacy in New Jersey and they ship within 24 hours, but it has to go through that pharmacy for it to be covered," explained Dr. Adhikari.

"I'll give a set to the nurse and she'll put my name on a plastic bag and keep it there for the year in case of emergency, knock on wood," Natalie Hultquist said.

Auvi-Q was recalled in 2015 because of malfunctioning injectors, but they are back and this time they are free, as long as you have insurance or make under $100,000 per year. This came after EpiPen Maker, Mylan, outraged the public by raising the price of EpiPens from about $100 in 2009 to more than $600 in 2016.

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