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Epinephrine injectors may outlast their expiration dates

A white leather handbag with two EpiPens spilling out of it.

June 19, 2019—Do you carry an epinephrine injector, or EpiPen, in case of a life-threatening allergy attack? It is prescribed to treat severe allergic reactions, such as to foods or insect bites. If so, you may have noticed shortages and price increases for the device. Those issues can make replacing your EpiPen before it expires a challenge.

But a new study could point the way to cost savings for consumers who rely on this life-saving medicine. It suggests that people may not have to replace their unused injectors quite as often as they currently do. The reason? The drug inside the devices may stay potent longer than the label states.

Expired but still effective?

For the study, researchers analyzed 46 expired EpiPens, including at least one from each of the different manufacturers. The devices had expired months to years earlier. The oldest injectors were 14 years past their expiration dates. Among the key findings:

  • Despite being past their prime, according to the label, 80% of the injectors still retained more than 90% of their epinephrine, as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Such a concentration may still be high enough to treat an allergy attack.
  • Only nine of the expired injectors didn't meet FDA's potency standards.
  • All of the devices retained 90% epinephrine content up to 30 months beyond the expiration date.

Calls for a longer shelf life

Current EpiPen expiration dates are too short and could be extended, the researchers said. That could help consumers because it would mean that they would need to replace their unused EpiPens less often than they do now.

It also could help reduce the recent problem of epinephrine shortages.

Talk to your doctor

The researchers stopped short of advising that you use an expired EpiPen. But they did acknowledge that some people may need to rely on their outdated injectors if they can't afford or find new ones.

The best advice? Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your EpiPen.

The study was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

More than your average allergic reaction

Anaphylactic shock is a medical emergency. Learn more about it.

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