EpiPens Potent Up To 4 Years After Expiry Date

First Posted: May 11, 2017 04:00 AM EDT

People with severe allergies know the importance of keeping an EpiPen nearby at all times. The main active ingredient in auto-injectors is ephenephrine, a dose of adrenaline hormone that can help relax muscles and reduce swelling during severe allergic reactions.

However, the price of the devices soared since 2007, going up as much as 400 percent. This in turn angered many patients who relied on them. However, that is not the end of the outrage. Later on, insurance providers dropped the coverage of the EpiPens.

These anti-allergy medications do not come in cheap. Manufacturer Mylan developed a cheaper, generic version of the EpiPen, but this still comes at $300 for two.

With the many patients struggling to obtain such life-saving meds, researchers began testing devices whose expiration dates already passed. They were able to determine how long after the expiration date these pens remain potent and safe to use.

According to study author Lee Cantrell, a professor of medicine and pharmacy from the University of California, San Diego, EpiPens are still potent up to 29 months after expiration. CNN noted that according to the study, at this point, the pens still contained at least 90 percent of their stated amount of ephinephrine.

Reuters also noted that Cantrell, who also serves as the director of the California Poison Control System in San Diego, found that while the auto-injectors did lose potency over time, they sill retained at least 84 percent of ephinephrine 50 months past the expiry date. At this point, it is still enough to prevent anaphylactic shocks.

"If my kid's having a life-threatening reaction, and I had no alternative, absolutely I would use it without hesitation," he said. Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician and professor at the University of Chicago, agreed with Cantrell. However, he stressed that replacing expired EpiPens with in-date ones would still serve patients best. While he believes that nobody should rely on an expired EpiPen, he did note that if needed, then using an expired one is still "better than nothing."

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