Bee venom shortage making life-saving allergy shots more scarce

Credit: PollyDot / Pixabay


(WSPA) – More Americans die each year from bee stings than any other creature according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A shortage in the allergy shots that help people develop immunity to stings, is a major concern for doctors and patients.

You may not enjoy an encounter with the master pollinators, but their line of defense demands respect. One hundred people die each year, though bees are half a million times smaller.

“I was so freaked out when it happened,” says Penny White.

White considers her son, Kyle, lucky to have survived an allergic reaction to a bee sting at age two.

“I had never seen anything like that before when he had welts on top of welts, I mean he was just covered in welts,” White says.

After his reaction, Kyle went through a multi-year allergy treatment that White says likely saved his life.

The same venom that can kill is also used to heal. It’s all about the dosage and timing of the injections.

“We start off in small doses in the beginning gradually increasing over time. And what used to be weekly injections, gradually become monthly injections,” says Jamie Lagos, Doctor at Allergy Partners of the Foothills.

Now in many offices throughout the country, allergists have to limit the immunotherapy shots because this venom is in short supply.

The shortage dates back to 2016 when there were two companies that made the venom. One of the companies, ALK-Abelló, had to stop supplying to the U.S. when the FDA found its products were contaminated.

‘”That’s terrifying because if I hadn’t of had it for my son, I don’t know if he would be OK,” White says.

Still Lagos says right now, at least, the longer spacing of treatments has still remained highly effective.

“It reduces that risk to about 2 to 3 percent,” Lagos says.

Compared to 64 percent without the shots.

White’s son is proof of the effectiveness of the treatment, he survived at least two more bites after therapy.

“The reaction was nothing, I mean he didn’t even break out,” White says.

The one company still producing the venom, Jubilant HollisterStier, is working overtime before patients truly feel the sting of the shortage.

But it should be noted, the venom shots are not used to treat a reaction, that’s where something like the Epi-pen comes in.

But they do help a patient build immunity.

Jubilant HollisterStier says the supply won’t be back to normal until 2018.

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