How can EpiPens continue to be effective?
A new study from the University of California, San Diego found that expired auto-injectors can still be used in emergency situations. If you are one of the many people in Portland who suffers from a severe allergy, you know how frustrating it is to constantly throw away unused EpiPen, only to have to shell out the few hundred bucks to buy a new one. But it’s just something you have to do, as an auto-injector is the only thing that can save your life if you are having a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction?
According to your Portland ENT, an allergy is an exaggerated response from your immune system to a normally harmless substance. Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against germs and bacteria; it plays a crucial role in maintaining your health and preventing infections. Your immune system is comprised of cells, proteins, tissues and organs.
When a threat is detected, the immune system responds by attacking the substances that are invading the body. Proteins designed to protect against foreign invaders, known as antibodies, are produced during this attack. These antibodies trigger the release of a chemical called histamines, which is responsible for these telltale symptoms of an allergic reaction:
- Mucus Production
The epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is a hormone that helps relax muscles. Contained in an auto-injector, the epinephrine can open airways and reduce swelling if used during an allergic reaction.
New Allergy Research Was Needed
The price of these life-saving auto-injectors has gone up 400 percent over the last 10 years. Because of this increase, researchers began looking into how long after the printed expiration date the injectors actually lasted.
The study conducted by Dr. Lee Cantrell found that EpiPens Jrs. contained at least 90 percent of epinephrine 29 months after their expiration date and EpiPens contained 84 percent 50 months after. That’s more than four years past the printed expiration date.
The results of this study helped to validate a practice many patients have already been doing – saving their expired EpiPens. While the study in no way suggests that people should stop purchasing new auto-injectors when their old ones expire, it does advocate for holding onto the older injectors. They can be used in an emergency situation when a current injector is not available.
Simply put – in an emergency situation, an expired auto-injector is better than nothing at all.
For more information on the use of auto-injectors, contact your Portland ENT.