US experiences shortage of product to treat life-threatening insect stings

Posted at 9:16 PM, Jul 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-04 21:16:00-04

(KETV/KPHO/KTVK/CNN) - Allergists across America are warning about a shortage of a product used to treat insect stings.

Their warning about venom immunotherapy, or VIT, comes at the peak time for insect stings, the summer.

Millions of Americans are allergic to insect stings. A smaller percentage of Americans suffer anaphylaxis - a severe response that can be life-threatening -  if they're stung by a honeybee, hornet or wasp.

Supplies of the venom protein extract used for VIT are low and may continue to be for some time.

VIT involves injecting small doses of venom under the skin.

This reduces sensitivity to the allergens that can trigger dangerous symptoms.

There are just two manufacturers in the U.S., and one of them was shut down in 2016 after contamination problems, which led to the shortage.

The situation may not be resolved before next year. So, for now, doctors are rationing doses for patients who need them.

Guidelines issued this spring called for longer intervals between doses, reduction of maintenance doses and even stopping treatment altogether for patients with a lower risk for severe reactions.

Experts say the plan is working and the shortage is decreasing but don't expect supplies to be back to normal for several months.

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