Why EpiPens have such a short shelf life

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Consumers forced to buy a new pack of EpiPens every year can blame epinephrine directly. The drug is notoriously unstable, limiting an EpiPen's shelf life to just 18 months, reported The Washington Post.

While Mylan CEO Heather Bresch announced the company was working on an EpiPen reformulation with a longer shelf life, the task is easier said than done. If epiniphrine is exposed to light, heat or air, the drug can degrade and turn rust colored. EpiPen's label advises users to dispose of the product if the liquid inside the device is discolored.

A study, featured in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2000, assessed EpiPens 1 to 90 months after their expiration date and found that epinephrine content declined over time, even if the color did not change. The authors also discovered some EpiPens contained at least two-thirds of an intended dose a year after the expiration date.

While medical professionals recommend patients with severe allergies always carry an in-date EpiPen, if an expired device is all that is on hand, they should still use it, according to the report.

 

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