Bee venom shortage has Tampa Bay area doctors concerned

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Doctors across the Tampa Bay area are urging people to be careful while outside this summer. There’s a nationwide shortage of bee venom, which is used to treat people allergic to bee stings and this limited supply could put many people in danger.

The look and the sound of bees can incite fear into anyone. Bee stings are not pleasant. For many, bee stings can quickly become a matter of life and death.

The CDC says millions of Americans suffer from insect allergies and nearly 100 people die each year from bee stings and bug bites.

“In Florida, with it being warm all year round, we definitely see a lot of people with insect sting allergy,” said allergy doctor Roger Danziger.

Dr. Danziger treats these patients with bee venom, which is extracted from the insects.

But now there’s a problem.

One of the manufacturers, ALK Laboratories, has had to shut down production. That has caused a shortage, because there is only one other US manufacturer that is able to do the tedious work of extracting that venom.

This has forced doctors to ration their leftover medicine for their patients. Dr. Danziger has had to extend the time between treatments for his patients to make sure he has enough venom to go around.

“That could have terrible consequences if they’re protected and then they slip back and become allergic again,” said Dr. Danziger.

This limited supply does not only apply to those allergic to bee stings. This impacts people allergic to other insects like wasps, yellow jackets, or in Pamela Kanarr’s case, fire ants. She realized she was allergic to the critters when she was bit by some of them 30 years ago.

“My throat was closing up, they had to put a tube in it. Even my ears were closing up so I couldn’t hear well. It was scary,” she recalled.

Kanarr had to be rushed to a hospital.

“If it had taken another hour, half hour, I probably would’ve died,” said Kanarr.

The venom treatments she received helped save her life. She feels it’s important for doctors to have a healthy supply handy.

“It’s a little scary,” she said.

Dr. Danziger is making sure his patients are safe and he’s continually checking in with the manufacturer for more venom. He’s remaining hopeful.

“I think we’re through the worst of it,” he said.

ALK Laboratories may resume production soon and the shortage could be eased in coming months.

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