Tragedy Averted: Mom Threatening Legal Action Gets Pharmacist to Act


Lily Brennan, a 16 year-old with nut allergies, was out for a day at the beach in last week with friends. That evening, walking in Vancouver, her lips started swelling and her throat grew tight after eating a gelato she thought was nut-free. Recognizing the symptoms, she realized she wasn’t carrying her EpiPen with her and knew her reaction could be life-threatening.
Already crying and panicked, she and her friends ducked into a local pharmacy.
“I explained to the man behind the counter what had happened, and that I could feel my throat closing up,” she said. “I knew I needed an EpiPen.”
Because she could coherently answer the pharmacist’s questions, he determined she wasn’t experiencing anaphylaxis. Instead of epinephrine, he gave her two tablets of the antihistamine Benadryl which would do nothing to ward off the reaction.

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“He told me to wait and see if that helped and if things got worse he would call 911,” said Lily.
When she returned to the counter with increasingly worsening symptoms, the pharmacist told the girl he couldn’t find an auto-injector. Lily called her mom who instructed her friend to call emergency services and put the store manager on the line.
“I actually had to roar at the manager … I had to threaten them with legal action,” said Lily’s mom, Caroline Brennan. “I was horrified.”
“And that’s when I heard scrambling and shouting, ‘Grab an EpiPen, grab one off the shelf!'”
Lily was administered an epinephrine injection and paramedics arrived shortly afterward to take her to the hospital.
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Ms Brennan filed a complaint with the province’s College of Pharmacists over what she calls “horrifying and heartbreaking” treatment her daughter received. The company, London Drugs, is reviewing the incident.

Lily was lucky as she was close to a pharmacy when the onset of symptoms occurred and – despite what can only be described as a bone-headed response from the pharmacist – received epinephrine in time. Not every child who forgets their auto-injector will be that lucky.

Please remind your teen to always “Take 2” epinephrine auto-injectors along everywhere, every time. Click here to download your free set of flyers to post around the house, because the sooner your child is administered epinephrine in an emergency, the better the outcome.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of

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  1. People who don’t know might ask “why didn’t she take an epipen to the beach?” Answer: they do not tolerate heat. Why not put them in a cooler? They don’t tolerate cold. It is hard enough to get teens to carry them, it doesn’t help when the damn things are (a) bulky as hell, (b) so delicate they degrade in the slightest variation of temperature and (c) widely out of stock. Imagine if that pharmacy were out of stock when this occurred?!

    • Imagine if the pharmacy were out of stock when this occurred? Which is why the teen should have gone to the emergency room at the hospital which was only 5-10 minutes away from the beach instead of the pharmacy which was also 5-10 minutes away from the beach. I know this info from another article that I read on this story. Never heard of an ER running out of epi-pens. Pharmacists are not nearly as well trained as ER physicians in handling anaphylaxis.

  2. 1)If you don’t have an Epi-pen, don’t eat unless it’s your own safe food prepared from scratch from your own kitchen.

    2) The teen knew she didn’t have her Epipen with her & choose to take the risk of buying gelato from an ice cream vendor without knowing the source/manufacturer of the ice cream. I have read more about this story from another article & it turns out the teen is trace anaphylactic to certain nuts. Even if the ice cream does not intentionally have nuts, there is a possibility of cross contamination. Not very smart

    3) Instead of going from the beach to the pharmacy on Robson Street for medical assistance, it would have been smarter to go to the emergency room at St. Paul’s hospital downtown which is 5 minutes from the London Drugs pharmacy. Same distance. Pharmacists don’t nearly have the same experience dealing with anaphylaxis as ER doctors. Bad decision

    4) A 16 year old is old enough to be a supplementary cardholder on parent’s credit card. You don’t need a prescription to buy Epipen in B.C. If she just walked up to the counter & asked to buy an Epipen with a credit card, she would have gotten the Epi-pen right away. You need a contingency plan.


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