RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Central Virginia company is stepping up to address a critical EpiPen shortage that's leaving pharmacies across the country unable to fill prescriptions.
The timing of the shortfall couldn't be worse for children like sixth-grader Menelik Reid as school is just starting back.
Reid is allergic to peanuts and his mother said the allergy became known when he was 4 after he ate a candy bar.
"My uncle said, 'You want a bite?' I said, 'Yeah,' because I love chocolate," Reid said. "I ate it and my throat started feeling itchy."
Since that day, his mother, I-Nubia Reid, tries to keep an EpiPen on hand to make sure he has help if he develops an allergic reaction. But many families in a similar position are still waiting for one.
Spencer Williamson is trying to do something correct that problem. He is president of Richmond-based pharmaceutical company Kaleo and is partnering with Walgreen nationwide to provide a zero-cost alternative called Auvi-Q.
"The word 'Kaleo' means to answer a calling or to have a purpose," Williamson said.
Auvi-Q works like an EpiPen and provides audio and visual cues to the user, which is where the name comes from.
"If you are ready to use, pull of the red safety guard," the device says.
By responding to the cues, the device inserts the needed medicine in a matter of seconds, and the user never sees a needle.
"You imagine a family at the lake having a nice afternoon with your children when the child is stung by a bee or exposed to an allergen," Williamson said. "The mother needs to be able to pull this out, or the brother or sister and administer the drug."
I-Nubia Reid can relate to the need to have treatment available at the d rop of a dime.
"This is not a flu shot or prevention for a virus. This is a life-saving rescue," she said.
Even families with no insurance who have an income less than $100,000 may qualify to get the device for free through a patient assistance program.
The FDA approved a generic version of EpiPen last month. Its producer, Teva, said it would launch the drug "in the coming months" but has not specified a date.
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