christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie
EpiPen injectors (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal this week called for new steps to be taken to relieve what he describes as a persistent and serious shortage of EpiPen auto-injectors that can provide lifesaving treatment to severe allergy sufferers.

Blumenthal sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking him to allow importation of safe and approved epinephrine auto-injectors from foreign countries to provide a temporary, immediate supply; and to encourage health insurance providers to add all epinephrine auto-injectors not in shortage to their formularies and to make those products available at the lowest level of cost-sharing.

Since May there have been periodic shortages of EpiPens due to manufacturing, supply and delivery issues. Meridian, a subsidiary of Pfizer, manufactures the devices. In a recent press release, Pfizer said it “takes very seriously the importance of EpiPen to everyone who needs it, and we are working tirelessly to increase production and expedite shipments as rapidly as possible.”

The issue is of particular concern at the start of the school year as parents attempt to refill expiring prescriptions to keep in children’s backpacks, at school and home.

Blumenthal is also prepared to introduce legislation that would give the DHHS and the Department of Justice authority to stop price gouging in the pharmaceutical industry. Blumenthal described the bill at a news conference in West Hartford this week.