UW Health doctors keeping close eye on bee venom shortage

MADISON, Wis. - A nationwide shortage of insect venom has doctors rationing doses of immuno-therapy treatments designed to prevent life-threatening reactions in patients allergic to bees, wasps and other stinging insects.

According to CNN, supplies started dwindling in October, when one of two manufacturers in the U.S. shut down production after contamination problems.

Immuno-therapy, which delivers shots of small doses of bee venom that increase over time to build up immunity, has given patients like Darci Johnson, of Madison, the freedom to enjoy outdoor activities without worrying about a deadly reaction from a sting.

"Knowing that theoretically, if I were to get stung right now, I wouldn't have an anaphylactic reaction, that's freeing," Johnson, who started the shots in May, said.

Dr. Mark Moss, an allergist at UW Health, said doctors are having to ration doses.

"We've definitely had to do some mild rationing," Moss said. "What this entails is to space out the intervals between treatments."

Moss said, right now, spacing out doses is working well for patients. He said everyone who needs the shots has been able to get them.

He said he's hopeful a solution will come, but he isn't exactly sure when things will go back to normal.

"The U.S. manufacturer is trying to increase production and we hope that that will alleviate the shortage," Moss said.

Moss said it's important that patients currently receiving the shots continue to take them.

"We can do very inventive things to make sure that people continue to receive treatment," he said. "The worst thing would be someone who stops because they hear there's a shortage."

According to Boston Children's Hospital, more than 2 million Americans are allergic to bee stings.

 


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