Allergists warn of shortage of medicine to treat insect stings - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Allergists warn of shortage of medicine to treat insect stings

Workers were cutting down this tree in Moss Bluff when they were attacked by bees. (Source: Antoine Aaron/KPLC) Workers were cutting down this tree in Moss Bluff when they were attacked by bees. (Source: Antoine Aaron/KPLC)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

Allergists across the country have warned of a shortage of a type of medicine used to treat insect stings. It's medicine used to help some work up immunity to an allergen.

Lillie Meche of Lake Charles vividly remembers when her husband's cousin had an allergic reaction to a wasp sting. He ran inside and dialed his daughter's phone number.

"He said, 'Come help me now!' And he passed out. That was it. He died there," said Meche.

Such emergencies require immediate response and those medicines are still readily available.

Dr. Brad LeBert, with the ENT and Allergy Clinic in Lake Charles, explains the medicine in short supply is for those trying to build up at least partial immunity to life-threatening allergies. 

"It is a protein that is made from the venom from the insect that is used to slowly get people to no longer be allergic using small injections under their skin over a given time period. So it's definitely not what is utilized in case of an insect sting. It is used to try to desensitize people to those stings before they occur," he said.

 LeBert says due to risks associated which such therapy it's not available everywhere.

"To my knowledge it's not done anywhere in the Lake Charles area for venom. We do do it a lot for inhaled allergens like tree pollen, grasses, dust mites, pet dander, those types of things. But from a venom standpoint, it can develop a really severe reaction even with minimal amounts of this therapy, so we don't offer it here in Lake Charles as a patient safety standard. Generally we talk about testing the patient, finding out if they do have a severe allergy to bee or wasp stings and then making sure the patient always carries an EpiPen which is really the life saving intervention," he said.

Those who do use the venom immunotherapy may see a shortage into next year, so doctors are rationing doses for patients who need them.

The shortage started when one manufacturer shut down due to contamination problems.

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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